The number of Garden State residents testing positive for the novel coronavirus continues to soar, but how many people that get the disease wind up recovering completely?

While there is data indicating the vast majority of patients do recover, Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the New Jersey Department of Health, says the definition of recovery is still evolving.

"We’re learning more about this virus every day," he said. "The CDC in particular is doing those sorts of studies, both on the earlier people who came into the United States and so forth. There are people being swabbed regularly every single day."

Data compiled by Worldometer, an organization run by an international team of developers, researchers and volunteers working to make world statistics available in real-time, indicates there have been an estimated 300,000 coronavirus cases around the globe, with more than 170,000 active cases, 11,000 deaths and more than 90,000 recoveries, and about 95% of infected patients have had mild conditions.

Their stats also indicate 90% of those who get COVID-19 recover from the illness within a month or so.

But when asked how long it takes for someone with mild to moderate symptoms to completely recover, Lifshitz said we’re still not exactly sure.

“We’re learning more about it all the time. We have some good general ideas, but if you ask me those sorts of specifics my answer is no, we can’t tell you.”

Some researchers have indicated it takes about two weeks for someone who is asymptomatic or has very mild symptoms to recover, and a month or longer for more serious cases. Lifshitz points out that even if you get better and feel fine, “you may still continue to test positive for this virus.”

“It’s less clear exactly what that means. If you test positive for this virus going forward, as to whether that’s when someone is viable-virus, meaning whether it can actually affect other people or not.”

He said if you do get the virus then recover to the point where you feel normal, “certainly we think you’re less infectious. But if you ask me for a hardened cutoff where I can say absolutely for sure when anybody can stop being infectious or when I would be sure they would again not become ill, the answer is no, I can’t tell you that.”

At this point, researchers agree that social distancing and avoiding large groups seems to be the best defense.

“We know that there is the ability for this virus to spread before you become sick but we still think that when you’re sick is when you’re spreading it the most because it’s when you’re sickest," he said.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli says it’s believed 80 to 85% of people with novel coronavirus can recover at home, while about 15% of cases will require hospitalization for at least some period of time.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com