COVID-19 variants pose risk to New Jersey, state health officials say

New Jersey leads the nation in COVID-19 infection rates despite vaccination efforts.
“The transmission is pretty rampant right now,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said on Monday.
As COVID-19 variants spread across the country, New Jersey and New York are once again seeing the highest rise of newly reported cases of the virus.
“Densest state in America, densest region in America. Something happens on one side of the Hudson it invariably is on the other side of the Hudson in an instant,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
State Communicable Disease Service Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz says that the two common variants that have been seen in New Jersey are the U.K. variant and the so-called NYC variant. New Jersey is reporting nearly 600 cases of the variants, but officials say that the real number could be higher.
"If you ask me what common means, unfortunately, my answer is pretty vague. Between the two of them we're probably seeing 10-40% in New Jersey that are related to that,” Lifshitz says. “But I can't give you an exact number.”
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Officials say that detecting the variant requires additional testing and takes between one or three weeks for a result to come back.
“We are looking to increase the total amount of variant testing we’re doing. At this point, I’d say we’re testing somewhere in the neighborhood of roughly 2% of our positives. We’d like to get that higher,” Lifshitz says.
But despite the rise in transmissions, the governor signed an order that will allow outdoor gatherings to have a maximum of 200 people, starting on Friday.
Murphy says that he wants to encourage people to be outdoors more, where the risk of the virus is less.