Omicron Drives New Vaccine Mandates in NJ and Beyond
New Jersey continues to set new records for positive COVID tests. The seven-day average has now hit 11,905, which is more than double the number from last week.
Testing capacity has greatly increased since the earliest days of the pandemic, and that has somewhat skewed the numbers, but every COVID metric reported by the New Jersey Department of Health and the CDC indicates a rapidly spreading viral threat.
Hospitalizations reached 2,462 over the weekend, which is the highest in 10 months. 469 patients are in need of life-supporting care with 223 on ventilators. A growing number of hospitals are stressed and diverting patients to other facilities.
RWJ/Barnabas Health announced visitors would no longer be allowed inside Monmouth Medical Center until further notice.
Hundreds of patients are being discharged each week after recovering from an infection, but new admissions are still outpacing discharges.
State health officials reported another seven COVID-related deaths on Sunday, bringing the total in New Jersey to 26,019.
The state's rate of transmission is now 1.56. Anything above one indicates the outbreak is expanding.
New Jersey continues to promote vaccination and testing.
Long lines are expected at COVID testing sites again this week as omicron continues to wash over New Jersey. Many have been seeking out testing as they gather with family and friends over the holidays.
The White House has been trying to mobilize greater vaccine and testing capacity, but the rollout has been slow.
Home testing kits have also been in short supply, with at least one pharmacy chain (Walgreens) rationing how many you can purchase at one time.
Meanwhile, new vaccine mandates and mask restrictions are going into effect in our region.
Newark is imposing the strictest vaccine mandates in New Jersey, by requiring anyone 5-years-old or older to show proof of at least one vaccine dose before entering most businesses and indoor venues. They also have an indoor mask mandate.
New York City now requires vaccination of all workers who interact with the public or perform in-person work. Businesses may not allow unvaccinated workers to enter the workplace.
Philadelphia also requires vaccine proof for anyone entering a business that serves food or alcohol. The option to provide a negative COVID test goes away in January.
Gov. Phil Murphy returns from an eight-day vacation in Costa Rica Dec. 30, but it is unclear if he will impose any statewide mandates to control the spread of omicron. He has said all options remain on the table. He has also been in talks with legislative leaders to extend and/or expand his pandemic regulatory powers, which expire in the middle of January.