New Jersey has the second highest cases of COVID-19 in the country. Today Governor Murphy announced another 4,331 new positive COVID19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 34,124 individuals. For weeks the Governor has consistently stressed that social distancing is the one tool that we have to slow the spread of infections in the state. It is expected that New Jersey will continue to see increased cases over the next days and weeks. Yet while that is a given, it is equally clear that social distancing matters and New Jerseyans are taking it seriously overall. Geographic tracking data have demonstrated that, generally, New Jerseyans have headed the Governor’s call for social distancing. Last week New Jersey received an overall “A” grade on social distancing compliance. And this week data compiled by Cuebiq found that New Jerseyans have limited their travel significantly relative to residents in other states.
In Saturday’s press conference the Governor highlighted new data that illustrated that, for the first time, social distancing may be helping flatten the curve and slow the spread. New York Times reporters track the growth rate of COVID-19 cases in each of the 21 counties in the state. The darker colors on the map below indicate a faster rate of growth and the lighter colors indicate a slower spread. So while the overall numbers of cases are increasing, the state’s increase in the rate of cases appears to be somewhat slowing. However this growth rate is uneven. Salem and Cape May counties appear to be doubling their rates of cases. Keep in mind that these counties have less cases than the other counties and were slightly slower in adhering to social distancing (based on the earlier data). This new data is helpful for these two counties to stress the importance of social distancing in slowing the spread of COVID-19
The New York Times data shows some positive trends. Counties that were doubling the rate of cases have slowed a bit overall in the state. This is an indication that social distancing is working to slow the spread of COVID-19. Slowing the spread allows the health care system to better manage patient care and resources. This is particularly important as New Jersey Heath Commissioner Judy Persichilli noted that nine New Jersey hospitals had to go on diversion status last night. Social distancing is more than just protecting one’s own health. Practicing social distancing is indeed an individual’s responsibility as a citizen in the state to protect our health care system and fellow residents.
Another glimmer of hope in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey is the early data from Monmouth County. As this Governor noted his home county (and mine) right now has the slowest growth rate in positive COVID-19 cases. As State Senator Vin Gopal who represents many Monmouth County towns told me “the mayors in Monmouth County have been doing a good job in promoting social distancing, as has the Freeholder Director. Everyone is working together on the same core message on making sure we take this as seriously as possible. So while there are still an alarming number of cases, we take some comfort in that we are doing a better job of promoting social distancing. With that said, this is no time to celebrate. We still have a number of cases and deaths every day, including Sam Fuoco from Eatontown and many others. If we continue to focus on social distancing we can curb this virus.”