Will omicron trigger new restrictions in NJ?
Travel restrictions are already going into effect in the United States and around the world, but widespread lockdowns do not appear imminent.
With data still being compiled about the new omicron COVID mutation, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci says talk of lockdowns is premature, but he did not rule them out.
Fauci and other federal health officials say it is likely omicron is already in the U.S, even though no cases have been confirmed by laboratory analysis. The delta variant still accounts for 99% of all new cases in the U.S. and New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted out the latest COVID metrics in New Jersey on Sunday, but did not mention the omicron variant.
Reaction to the new variant has been swift, with many countries imposing strict new travel bans.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency and moved to cancel elective surgeries in preparation for a new wave of anticipated COVID hospitalizations.
Murphy has not signaled he will declare a new health emergency, although the current spike in metrics does allow him to enact new restrictions without such a declaration or approval from the New Jersey Legislature.
The latest data from the New Jersey Department of Health puts the rate of transmission at 1.2, down slightly from 1.21, but still indicating an expansion of the outbreak. Over 880 people are hospitalized for COVID statewide and that number has remained above 800 for the last seven days.
State health officials have predicted the current surge in infections will land more than 2,000 in the hospital by the end of January, but that was before the emergence of omicron.
Murphy also tweeted a photo of himself getting his COVID booster shot on Sunday, and urged everyone in New Jersey to do the same.
Federal health officials say vaccinations and booster shots are the best defense against omicron, even though it appears to have some resistance to both current vaccines and the bodies own immunities after a previous COVID infection.
Fauci contends it is unlikely this new variant can evade all of the antibodies created by the vaccines.
In the meantime, vaccine makers say they are already working on a booster shot to combat the omicron variant.