With the highly contagious delta variant now responsible for 99% of all COVID cases in New Jersey, almost 2,000 Garden State residents are testing positive for the virus every day on average, and hospitalizations continue to creep higher.

While state health officials continue to monitor the COVID metrics very carefully and voice concern, no one is in panic mode.

All 21 counties in New Jersey now have high rates of coronavirus transmission, but New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli pointed out that the rate of transmission, referred to as the RT, has been trending lower in recent weeks, and is now hovering around 1.

“We’ve seen it around that for quite some time, it’s based on the cases, and if the cases stay steady the RT will stay steady,” she said. “Anything over 1 means there is still transmission, but it’s lower than it has been.”

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Persichilli noted that while the number of people sick with COVID in the hospital is increasing slowly, the numbers are still relatively low and the percentage of patients being treated in the intensive care unit and with ventilators remains low, relative to what the numbers have been over the past 18 months.

“We had a surge in April. We are now 50% less than the surge in April – that’s what we’re looking at,” she said.

And while things are better than in the spring, Persichilli expects hospitalizations to trend upward for now.

Gov. Phil Murphy said as efforts continue to stop the COVID pandemic in its tracks, people can help by getting vaccinated.

"The most important thing you can do if you’re not vaccinated is to get vaccinated. We’re down now to about 8 or 9 thousand first shots a day, we’d love to see double that,” Murphy said.

He added the vaccines aren’t 100% perfect but “that’s the best way to stay healthy, stay out of the hospital and stay alive.”

Persichilli said while Jersey does have the sixth highest vaccination rate of any state in the nation, there are still millions of people who are not vaccinated. With the delta variant still circulating, they have a much higher risk of getting COVID and becoming seriously ill than people who are vaccinated.

Since the pandemic began, more than 27,000 confirmed and suspected COVID deaths have been recorded in New Jersey, but over the past few months, death totals have remained relatively low, in the single digits on some days.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the state Health Department, said that’s because we now have “somewhat better therapeutics to help keep people out of the hospital' adding that vaccinated people who experience breakthrough COVID cases are less likely to be hospitalized.

Inspiring Images of NJ Medical Professionals Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine