‘People made the wrong decisions.’ Lax COVID-19 mitigation efforts blamed on rise of cases

New Jersey has reported more than 6,800 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, making the seven-day average for new positive cases above 6,000 for the first time since the pandemic began. Case numbers this high have not been seen since Jan. 12.
Positive cases are not the only numbers going up. Hospitalizations related to the virus hit their worst in eight months. Currently, there are more than 2,000 people in the hospital with coronavirus, and 18% are being treated in the intensive care unit. But by comparison, this number is much better than where New Jersey was at this time last year. On Dec. 21, 2020, there were more than 3,700 people in the hospital.
The Omicron variant is now blanketing the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that nearly 75% of COVID cases in the nation are of the Omicron variant.
“Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, people letting their guard down,” says Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “More people made the wrong decisions and this is clearly what's happening right now.”
Halkitis says that Omicron is being driven both by the unvaccinated and by vaccinated people who are not practicing other mitigation strategies like wearing masks.
“Bad news is this thing is incredibly transmissible. All the experts – their jaws have dropped at just how fast this thing has exploded,” says Gov. Phil Murphy.
The governor has been reluctant to put new restrictions in place, including remote learning in schools. He says he fears the loss of learning if this were the case.
“We're going to do everything we can to stay in person obviously safely and responsibly,” Murphy says.
Halkitis says that he agrees that more lockdowns are not the answer.
“We are not in any way, I am 99% sure, going to see the lockdowns we're seeing in Europe. I don't think the American public has the tolerance for that. I do think, however, we will see pulling back. We will see scaling back,” he says.
Both Halkitis and the governor say getting a booster shot and relying on tried and true mitigation strategies are the best way to ride the wave of Omicron safely into the new year.
“Get your vaccine, get your booster, do not gather in large groups, wear your masks when you're in public spaces and try to keep an eye on and a mind to the health care provider and the health care system which is so overtaxed and so overburdened at this moment,” says Halkitis.
There were over 2,000 COVID-19 patients reported in New Jersey hospitals Monday night, the first time hospitalizations have been over 2,000 since April.