TRENTON – COVID-19 levels in New Jersey have reached the point that the health department rates its activity as high in most of the state for the first time since the last week of January.

Five of the six regions of the state, covering 18 of the 21 counties, are colored orange for high activity on the state Department of Health’s weekly CALI report – short for COVID-19 Activity Level Index – for the week ending May 7. That report comes out each Thursday.

The only area still rated as moderate is the Southeast, which consists of Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.

The rating doesn’t automatically trigger COVID-related restrictions as it did in the past, though school districts and other institutions still monitor it to make decisions about things such as requiring masks.

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The number of new lab-detected COVID infections – 5,309 by PCR tests, 1,504 by antigen tests – announced today by the state is the most in a day since Jan. 28.

Over the past week, the number of positive PCR and antigen tests reported by labs averaged 4,487 a day, the highest since Feb. 2. It’s up 35% in the past week and up 430% since its recent low of 846 on March 15.

The number of hospitalizations of people with COVID infections was 727 as of Thursday night, which is the most since March 2 and more than double the recent low in late March. That includes 41 people on ventilators.

The weekly CALI report is based on case rates, the percentage of PCR tests coming back positive and the share of patients who show up at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms such as fever, cough and breathing problems.

All 18 data points – those three factors, for the six regions the state gets broken into – rose last week.

Four of the six regions are rated as having very high case rates, all but the two southern regions.

All of the regions are rated as having moderate levels of COVID-like illnesses at emergency rooms, except for the high percentage in the Central East region, which covers Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties.

All of the regions are rated as having high levels of percent positivity on PCR tests except for the Southeast region, where the 6.01% was still below the 10% threshold to be considered a high level. That was the difference keeping those counties at a moderate level overall.

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Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

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Changes in NJ county populations since 2020

Census Bureau estimates of the change in county populations since the 2020 Census on April 1, 2020 also provide a glimpse into COVID-era trends, as that's roughly the same time the pandemic began. The list below sorts New Jersey's 21 counties by their total change between the Census and the July 1, 2021 estimate.