New Jersey

NJ Officials Warn of COVID Spikes in 2 Jersey Shore Counties

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Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday singled out two New Jersey counties home to growing coronavirus cases as the state's total surpasses 200,000.

For over a week, the largest increases in the state were in Ocean and neighboring Monmouth counties.

Masks are still mandated indoors in New Jersey, but its activity elsewhere has state and local officials worried. Gatherings like the scene in Seaside Heights last week are particularly worrying as health officials are already on alert over a spike coinciding with the fall flu, although no positive cases have yet been tied to that party.

"We'll see in a day or two... two, three, four people within a family go through the whole family because they weren't really quarantining or isolating from each other," warns Middletown Health Office Rich DeBenedetto.

The virus continues to spread in the Garden State with the rate of transmission at 1.12 as of Monday. In recent weeks, the Rt has remained above 1, meaning each person with the virus is spreading it to a little more than one other person.

"As American comes back to life and as people go back out and eat outside and doing sports, there has to be some reasonable expectation there are going to be more cases," says Middletown Mayor Tony Perry.

That was the situation recently at the Middletown Sports Complex where 13 young hockey players tested positive, some of whom displayed symptoms.

"People are closing down, they're afraid to give out information on their friends, their coworkers. They feel like if they give it out they'll feel like a snitch and that's not what we're looking for," says Debendetto.

State and local officials have delivered warnings about the effects of "pandemic fatigue."

But despite the increase in cases in Ocean and Monmouth counties, the state is not ready to classify a second wave.

Extra contract tracers have been assigned to Ocean County, but Gov. Murphy said the religious holidays this weekend will delay any information they are able to get.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli urged for people feeling virus fatigue to be sure to exercise, eat healthy foods and try to get more sleep and to focus on their mental health. She said anyone looking for mental health care can call 866-202-HELP.

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