TRENTON – All of New Jersey is now covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suggestion to wear masks in indoor public places.

Warren County is now deemed to have substantial transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 as of the update posted Friday, which reflects data through Thursday. It had been the only county not to be covered by the recommendation, which applies in counties with high or substantial transmission.

Five of the state’s 21 counties are now classified as having high transmission, the highest of four categories: Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland and Monmouth.

The CDC altered its mask recommendation on July 27, citing the delta variant of the virus, and began recommending that even people who are fully vaccinated wear masks in indoor public settings, except in areas with low or moderate COVID transmission. It is not a mandate.

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What is the N.J. mask mandate?

Gov. Phil Murphy skipped the county-dependent portion of the recommendation but also added a qualification that masks should be worn in crowded places or places where people are unsure if other people are vaccinated. The latter would apply in most public places. Again, it is not a mandate.

Murphy is mandating that all students, teachers and visitors to all schools in the state wear masks indoors.

According to the website Covid Act Now, New Jersey over the past week averaged 13.1 cases a day per 100,000 residents, or 1,159 a day. Only 10 states have lower case rates. However, one month ago the state was averaging 2 cases a day per 100,000 residents.

COVID-19 cases in New Jersey

Within New Jersey, the highest case rates are in the counties the CDC flags as having high transmission rates – in order, Cape May, Monmouth, Burlington, Cumberland and Camden.

The counties that are slightly behind them but appear most at risk of being elevated by the CDC are Ocean, Gloucester, Atlantic, Salem, Hunterdon and Hudson counties.

The lowest case rates are in Mercer and Warren counties.

CDC data shows 5.93 million New Jersey residents have gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, which it says amounts to 66.8% of the total population, 77.8% of people 12 and older who are eligible for a vaccine and 80.1% of the adult population 18 and older.

Almost 59% of the state’s total population is fully vaccinated, compared to 50% nationally.

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Nationally, the number of cases has grown to levels last seen in February, topping 120,000 on Thursday. The number of deaths nationally have begun increasing. There were 700 on Thursday, the most in a day in three months, and the seven-day average of 424 deaths has doubled since mid-July.

There has not been an uptick in COVID deaths in New Jersey, at least not to this point. But the number of hospitalizations has doubled in three weeks to 619, with the number in the intensive care unit above 100 for the first time in two months. Both numbers remain far from past peaks.

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