New Jersey likely to pause reopening plans as Covid cases rise, governor says

New Jersey likely to pause reopening plans as Covid cases rise, governor says

Phil Murphy, New Jersey’s governor, speaks at a news conference after touring the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center Covid-19 vaccination site in Edison, New Jersey, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

New Jersey will likely pause its reopening plans as Covid-19 cases begin to rise again in the state, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

As of Sunday, the state’s seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has increased to just over 4,000 per day — a more than 10% jump from the previous week, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It also leads the U.S. in new cases per capita over the past week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When asked on CNN whether the state would “hold off” on reopening plans for a week or two, Murphy said, “I think what you’ll see going forward is we will do that.”

“My guess is, we won’t be opening up further capacity for some time now because of .. the caseload,” Murphy said, adding that he thinks things should improve as the weather gets warmer and more people in the state get vaccinated.

New Jersey has opened its indoor capacity for restaurants and other businesses to 50%, according to Murphy.

Other states are also seeing a rise in new cases as they reopen, and health officials are concerned that could cause a new surge as highly contagious variants spread across the nation.

During a White House news briefing Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged Americans to remain “vigilant” as officials race to get the majority of Americans vaccinated.

“We are at a critical point in this pandemic,” Walensky said. “I’m worried that if we don’t take the right actions now we will have another avoidable surge just as we are seeing in Europe right now.”

“We’re at a position right now where we have a plateauing at around 53,000 cases per day,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, said Friday. “The concern is that throughout the country there are a number of states, cities, regions that are pulling back on some of the mitigation methods that we’ve been talking about: the withdrawal of mask mandates, the pulling back to essentially nonpublic health measures being implemented.”

As of Sunday, the CDC has identified 6,390 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. The agency has identified 194 cases of the B.1.351 strain from South Africa as well as 54 cases of P.1, a variant first identified in Brazil.

In New Jersey, officials have identified 160 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, one case of the B.1.351 strain and two cases of the P.1 variant, according to the CDC.

“We’re watching these variants very closely, the case numbers are clearly up,” Murphy said. “We clearly have these variants in our state, as we are seeing in New York City, a little bit reminiscent of what happened last spring.”