During the latest COVID update on Monday in Trenton, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a total of 4,801,626 people who either live, work or study in New Jersey are now fully vaccinated.

As vaccination rates go up, COVID infections, hospitalization and deaths continue to nosedive in New Jersey, but there is growing concern about the Delta variant, first identified in India last December.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said for those who are not vaccinated it is believed “the Delta variant is between 40% and 60% more transmissible and could become the dominant strain in the U.S. sometime next month.”

She noted studies in the United Kingdom that suggest “children and young people seem to be the ones spreading the Delta variant, so while this variant has increased in New Jersey recently, it is currently a minority of the variants that we’re seeing.”

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She said the most recent data shows the Delta variant is about 7.3% of the variants that have been sequenced over the past month in the Garden State. Last week, the Delta variant was 5.1% of the variants sequenced recently in New Jersey.

Persichilli said the Delta variant is expected to infect a growing number of New Jersey residents in the coming weeks “however the vaccines authorized for use in the United States have been reported to be effective against the Delta variant as well as well as other variants.”

She noted researchers found two shots of the Pfizer vaccine appeared to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the state Health Department, said while the Delta variant is starting to spread in the Garden State “we’re not seeing particular numbers rise as far as hospitalizations or other things go, so that is certainly reassuring.

On Monday, a total of 233 COVID hospitalizations were reported, along with 126 new cases and only three deaths.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Lifshitz, “I do believe that the vaccine is very effective against it.”

Murphy said efforts continue to push vaccination numbers higher.

“As part of our Operation Jersey Summer we have our COVID-19 Community Corps working door-to-door across a bunch of communities and municipalities to make sure everyone not only has the facts they need to make the right decision about getting vaccinated, but that they know where to get vaccinated," Murphy said.

To date, Murphy said, the team has made nearly 60,000 phone calls and texts, and knocked on over 134,000 doors.

The governor said this week the COVID-19 Community Corps will be focusing their efforts throughout New Jersey, including in places like Jersey City, Woodbridge, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, Union City, Paterson, Hoboken, West New York, Bayonne and more.

Persichilli said her department will soon be sending vaccine ambassadors “to high risk counties to work with elected officials, community leaders, school districts and faith leaders to bring vaccines closer to where the people are.” She said that will include places like barber shops, local pharmacies and doctors' offices.

“We’re not stopping, we have the hammer dropped,” said the governor, “I thank each and every person walking their communities to help us get the word out that the vaccines are safe, effective and free.”

Murphy said the initial target of vaccinating 4.7 million New Jersey adults by the end of June still stands, but the state is also now keeping of track of the total number of vaccinated Garden State residents, which was recently expanded to include kids between the ages of 12 to 15.

He stressed anybody who has gotten either a Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson  vaccine in New Jersey “is a vaccinated person that is helping us in our overall health objectives, not only helping themselves, it’s helping us be a healthier state.”

Lifshitz said the number one takeaway message here is “go ahead and get vaccinated, it will protect you, it will protect other people, it will help protect against new variants continuing to come about.”

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