New Jersey and New York each reported nearly 2,000 positive cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, daily totals that haven't been as high for each state since May, data collected from each state shows.
Gov. Phil Murphy marked his state's seventh straight day of more than 1,000 cases of the virus by extending New Jersey's public health emergency declaration that began on March 9.
The daily case count reported on Saturday was 1,994, Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted. His state's latest report rose by 855 from the previous day, an increase of nearly 75 percent.
"Today's new COVID-19 case count marks our highest daily figure since May. As we face a steep increase in cases, it could not be more important to ensure we have access to all available resources," Murphy said in a statement.
New Jersey's governor has been in quarantine as a precaution following contact with a staffer who tested positive for COVID. Murphy said Saturday he tested negative for the virus as did one of his senior advisors who tested positive on Wednesday.
Murphy has said cases and positivity rates are increasing in virtually every part of the state. Most of the surge is tied to small household gatherings and parties, he has said. Since he can't regulate what happens within people's private homes, he continues to urge New Jerseyans to be smart and take appropriate precautions.
"Again, I urge every New Jerseyan to stay vigilant. This virus has not gone away simply because we are tired of it. Stay #JerseyStrong," Murphy tweeted with Saturday's numbers.
To date, New Jersey has confirmed more than 225,000 COVID cases and reported more than 16,000 deaths, including probable fatalities. New York's numbers are more than double those tolls.
In New York, while the overall infection rate remains low, the state recorded 2,061 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily total since May 21.
The average positivity rate in the realigned micro-cluster zones was 2.58 percent as of Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, while the rate outside those areas rose just above one percent. Total hospitalizations ticked up to 1,045, up by 22 from the previous day. The daily death toll was once again in the double digits, albeit the low ones (11), continuing the trend of recent weeks. Increases in hospitalizations tend to lag increases in cases; increases in deaths follow last, as the tri-state area learned all too painfully earlier this year.
Nationally, coronavirus cases reached a daily record amount for the second day in a row, with nearly 77,993 cases reported Friday — topping Thursday's total by about 350. The new benchmarks were hit as the pandemic has accelerated at a pace not seen since the summer and as many local governments have reimposed restrictions to stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than 225,000 people in the U.S., according to the latest tally.
"As new cases climb across the country, in New York we are continuing our strategy of aggressively targeting micro-clusters whenever they pop up and implementing measures to stop any potential spread quickly," Cuomo said in a Saturday statement. "We are able to be surgical in our approach because we have developed such large testing and contact tracing programs."
Despite the recent upticks, the tri-states' reopening process continues. Movie theaters in New York state can reopen beginning Friday with restrictions on audience size and other precautions in place -- except for those in New York City, which also lagged the rest of the state in reopening on indoor dining and malls.
Welcoming audiences for the first time in seven months, the big screens are restricted to 25 percent of capacity with a maximum of 50 people per screen, Cuomo said. Masks are required and seating is assigned to ensure social distancing.
More reopenings in New York are expected next week as more than 100 public schools resume in-person learning on Monday, following Cuomo's lift of restrictions in certain cluster zone areas.
In Brooklyn's highest-risk areas, its red zone spots like Borough Park, strict virus control measures are extended, with Cuomo citing ongoing issues as far as COVID positivity rates and community compliance.
Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged people were frustrated but noted how quickly progress came in Queens -- and said it likely wouldn't be much longer before restrictions could lift in Brooklyn.
The cluster zone saga may be the new way of life for parts of New York -- at least for now. Cuomo said he would reassess the metrics -- including positivity rates, hospitalization and new case trends, local enforcement and community compliance -- on a moving 10-day period. He said he'd make adjustments as progress warrants. And he has the flexibility to do the same if new issues emerge.