CDC warns New Jersey to wear masks as COVID hospitalizations surge

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As COVID hospitalizations increased, the CDC is recommending that almost everyone in New Jersey go back to wearing masks for public, indoor spaces.

New Jersey only had six counties in the “high” COVID-19 community level about a week ago but the CDC’s latest map shows 17 counties in the elevated risk category.

That is the entire state except for Hunterdon, Mercer, Salem and Cumberland counties, which remain in the medium risk category.

The CDC’s mask recommendations are not mandates in the Garden State but the new guidance arrives as COVID transmission and hospitalization totals continue to climb.

People may choose to continue masking in any setting.

BA.4 and BA.5 – subvariants of the Omicron variant – now make up 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with BA.5 accounting for a majority of cases nationwide.

Early indications signal that BA.5 may have greater ability to penetrate immunity, including from prior infections, meaning it has the potential to cause the numbers of infections to rise in the coming weeks.

This potential for increase is greatest when fewer people are up to date on their vaccinations and there is an increased waning of immunity from vaccines.

BA.5 — an omicron subvariant that’s become the most contagious COVID strain yet — took over New Jersey’s dominant strain in recent weeks.

The subvariant reflected about 64 percent of the region’s COVID cases, according to the CDC.

More than 222 million Americans are fully vaccinated, with 106 million people having at least their first booster shot, and virtually every American of every age is eligible for vaccination.

There are also courses of lifesaving treatments available that are being used more than ever before, as well as widely available at-home tests and high-quality masks.

The science is clear that COVID-19 vaccines remain our single-most important tool to protect people and prevent serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, and staying up to date on booster shots ensures that people have the highest level of protection possible.

Based on the latest CDC data, adults who are up to date with their vaccinations are 3.5 times less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated adults; among those who are 50 and older, people who have received two booster shots are 42 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who are unvaccinated.

Vaccines are free and easy to access at 90,000 convenient locations nationwide.

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