For the past several weeks, COVID-19 spikes have been reported in several states along with soaring hospitalization and death rates.

This has greatly concerned Gov. Phil Murphy and state health officials, especially because almost every day hundreds of new COVID-19 cases are being reported in New Jersey. Nut all of the important coronavirus metrics that are monitored daily remain favorably low

During his COVID update on Wednesday, Murphy announced eight additional deaths, which is low. The rate of transmission, dipped to 1.32. The positivity rate inched up to 2.57, which is still one of the lowest rates of any state. And hospitalizations, patients in intensive care and the number of patients on ventilators continues to drop or stay low in New Jersey.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the state Department of Health, said the state's continuing low level of hospitalizations and deaths is due to the fact that “we have shifted somewhat to younger age groups."

"So more younger people are getting this and luckily they tend not to get as ill or hospitalized or, of course, dying," he said.

“In the short term is good. They’re less likely to have serious outcomes. However, for the state as a whole, it’s very concerning because those younger people can infect other people.”

Lifshitz said if younger people are getting sick “and they are not getting hospitalized, they are still often infecting others who then may down the road become ill and those bad outcomes may happen.”

He also noted that hospitalizations and deaths lag.

"It takes a while after people get sick until they’re hospitalized, until they begin dying,” he said.

“We’re always trying to figure out what we might be seeing two, four, six, eight weeks down the road if this continues,” he said.

Gov. Murphy believes the high number of positive COVID-19 cases in New Jersey is not really surprising.

“It’s a testament to the amount of tests, we’re doing an enormous amount of testing right now,” he said.

Murphy added while we need to remain vigilant for any signs of increased COVID activity “it is encouraging to have one of the lowest spot positivity rates in the country.”

Dr. Lifshitz noted we almost certainly do not have so-called herd immunity for COVID-19 in the Garden State, where enough people have been exposed to the virus to slow down or even stop its transmission.

He said the exact percentage of people that would need to have COVID immunity to stop it from spreading isn’t known for sure “but it’s thought to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 to 80% of the population, it is clear we are nowhere near that high a level.”

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