For the first time in more than two months, the COVID-19 rate of transmission in New Jersey has exceeded 1.0, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday. That means the virus that has led to the deaths of more than 15,000 people in the state since March has increased its spread over the past one to two weeks.
“This is an early warning sign that quite frankly, we need to do more,” Murphy told reporters during his Monday briefing.
The news comes on the heels of Murphy’s decision last week to hold off on allowing indoor dining statewide, citing the significant increase in cases in dozens of other states.
Murphy said state officials learned over the weekend that several outbreaks in the Garden State came as the result of visits to known hot spots. In one instance, several cases in Sussex and Warren counties were tied to people who traveled to a wedding in Myrtle Beach, S.C. In Hoboken, the city identified 12 of its 13 most recent cases came from people coming back from out-of-state.
The governor reiterated the state has a 14-day quarantine advisory that urges people to isolate themselves for two weeks if they’re traveling from one of 16 states currently experiencing high transmission and positivity rates.
Murphy made headlines Sunday as he called for a national mandate for anyone leaving their home to wear a mask. Yet, on Monday, the governor would not commit to expanding his statewide order on masks and require people to wear them outdoors.
“The virus is a lot less lethal outdoors,” Murphy said. “There’s more mask wearing, anecdotally, than there was two weeks ago, but there’s still not remotely enough outdoors. And that’s something that Judy [Persichilli, state commissioner of health] and the rest of us are looking at this.”
Murphy defended the measures his administration has taken to require masks indoors, saying that helped bring the spread of the virus down from the deadliest peak.
Tuesday is the state’s primary election day, and while in-person voting will be available, Murphy encouraged people to mail in their ballots. They must be postmarked no later than Tuesday in order for them to be counted.
Murphy said officials will review how the primary turns out before deciding what changes, if any, to make for the November general election.
“The good news is we have time in order to make the decisions that we’ll need to make for the November election, but our premise begins and ends with the fact we want as many people as possible having the ability to vote,” he said.