Despite warnings from state health officials about the rise of the Delta COVID-19 variant, New Jersey is ending the long holiday weekend with COVID metrics that remain near pandemic lows.

Hospitalizations have fallen to 262 statewide with only 47 needing life supporting care. New Jersey reported it's first COVID cases nearly 16 months ago. At the peak of the first wave, more than 8,000 people were hospitalized. As many as 3,800 were hospitalized last December as the second wave peaked. Today, the rate of transmission (r/t) remains below one at .97 and the spot positivity rate for new cases is at 1.49%.

There is a lag time in the reporting of new numbers, so it will be a few days before we know if there is a spike in cases as a result of July 4th celebrations. New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli urged residents to mask-up during the long holiday weekend, especially if they would be gathering indoors. Governor Phil Murphy has also warned if there is a spike in cases, he could impose a new mask mandate.

Meanwhile, one of the state's largest hospital groups has developed a new test specifically for the Delta variant. Hackensack Meridian Health says they can screen hundreds of samples in just hours. Dr. David Perlin, HMH's chief scientific officer tells they have seen a 20-25% increase in the number of positive tests for Delta, and most of those infections are among the unvaccinated. New Jersey now lists more than 5 million residents as fully vaccinated.

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