Young adults are the fastest-growing age group of residents testing positive for the coronavirus in New Jersey, even as the outbreak here has slowed dramatically in recent months, the state’s top health official warned Monday.
State Health Official Judith Persichilli said this comes as New Jersey and other states are seeing parties held by younger residents “leading to an uptick in cases.”
More than 730 New Jersey residents between the ages of 18 and 29 have been hospitalized because of complications from the virus, while 53 have died, she said.
“I want to especially emphasize to our young people to that they are not invincible or immune to COVID-19,” Persichilli said during the state’s latest coronavirus briefing in Trenton.
In April, Persichilli said, residents aged 18 to 29 represented 12% of New Jersey’s cases. That jumped to 22% of the state’s cases in June, she said.
That shift may be partially attributed to the testing capacity during the peak of New Jersey’s outbreak in April, when primarily symptomatic people were being tested.
In all, New Jerseyans in that age group have accounted for about 24,000 of 175,522 known cases — approximately 14% — since March 4, Persichilli said.
State officials reported early last month that nearly 80% of New Jersey’s deaths at that point were of residents 65 or older. Health experts say the elderly and people with underlying conditions are more likely to die from COVID-19.
But they stress that young people can still die from it, and they can pass it to other people who are more at-risk.
“People at any age can get severe illness from COVID-19,” Persichilli said. “We need all residents to continue to take precautions — and not to just to protect themselves but to protect all of us.”
Persichilli’s warning comes as officials said they’re concerned by packed beaches at the Jersey Shore this weekend, with police needing to temporarily block access to a beach in Long Branch to help manage the crowd. Officials have also been alarmed by crowded outdoor bars.
Persichilli said the mayor of Westfield told the state last week that some new cases in the Union County town were connected to graduation and July 4th parties.
The health commissioner called on younger residents to keep practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands.
“These are life-saving measures,” Persichilli said. “We all have a responsibility to our families, our loved ones, and our community. It is vital that young people understand they are part of the solution to the slowing of COVID-19.”
New Jersey on Monday reported 22 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and 231 more positive tests.
The state has now reported 15,560 deaths — 13,613 lab-confirmed and 1,947 considered probable — with 175,522 known cases since its first case was announced March 4.
Once a coronavirus hotspot, New Jersey has seen its daily figures drop dramatically since peaking in April and remain relatively steady in recent weeks as cases surge in other states.
But the rate of transmission had risen earlier this month above the key figure of 1 — meaning, on average, every newly infected resident was passing COVID-19 to at least one other person.
The number has fallen below that mark again. The latest rate was 0.91, officials said Monday.
Still, the state is calling on people traveling from 19 states with rising cases to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Jersey, including residents returning home.
Meanwhile, Monday was the first time since May that a week did not begin with some sort of reopening in New Jersey.
Murphy also announced last week the state is now requiring people to wear masks outdoors in public when they can’t practice social distancing.
More than 1.3 million New Jersey residents have filed for unemployment benefits as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy.