New Jersey

NJ Smashes Daily COVID Case Record on Christmas, Doubling Last Winter's Peak

New daily cases in the state are now only slightly behind new cases in New York City, with roughly the same population

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Omicron's grip on the Garden State continued to deliver record case counts on Christmas, when the health department reported a whopping 16,626 positive tests.

The latest figures represent a 143% increase from the daily numbers reported four days earlier, on Dec. 21. New Jersey has broken daily case record for a fourth straight day after quickly catching up to the previous highs reported back in January of this year.

A spike in positive cases has been the result of one of the most contagious variants of COVID-19, prompting millions to run out in search of tests as the new highly infectious strain surged in the leadup to Christmas.

The number of positive cases is expected to be much higher with untold numbers of people using rapid tests that don't get reported to state health departments.

Hospitals are so far holding up, but at least six in the central part of the state did have to go on "divert" status at various times earlier in the week. That number can change by the minute as resources are adjusted to meet demand, though.

New York state, meanwhile, smashed its single-day COVID record Friday for the seventh time in little more than a week at a staggering 44,431 new cases.

Statewide, hospitalizations are at the highest levels since early April, but still roughly half of what they were at the peak last December.

On Thursday, the most recent data available, hospitalizations hit 2,366, up 5% from the day before and more than double what they were three weeks previously.

Local governments across the state are scrambling to react. In Essex County, where daily positives have been nearly tripling every 48 hours this week, Newark, Montclair and South Orange have all re-imposed indoor mask mandates.

School districts are also struggling to keep up, with at least two -- Paterson and Maplewood-South Orange -- announcing they will come back to temporary virtual learning after the winter break.

New Jersey’s largest city implemented a new mask order on the same day state infections neared an 11-month high for a fifth day in a row. Tracie Strahan reports.

Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday. The CDC numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron's share of infections in only one week.

In much of the country, omicron's prevalence is even higher. It's responsible for an estimated 90 percent of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, according to the CDC.

New Jersey's own genomic surveillance puts its omicron prevalence at more than 53%, the latest state data shows.

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