OCEAN COUNTY – Positive COVID-19 tests have come in at a higher rate recently, causing medical professionals to urge caution. However, they also note that many of the local cases are not severe.
The county’s case totals leveled off through most of the summer. But there was an increase as schools reopened and people went to fall gatherings. For example, on one day in the middle of October, there were 250 new positive tests reported.
The state has gone back and forth about opening, mostly keeping restrictions in place, especially as numbers rise here and throughout the country.
Most of those reported as sick are Ocean County residents, as opposed to tourists who tested positive while they were visiting. There were a small amount of college students getting sick at school, but since their home address is listed as Ocean County, they were added to the total. The main demographic seeing increases is adolescents and adults younger than 30.
“Any time there is an uptick there’s certainly reason for concern,” said Brian Lippai, Public Information Officer for the Ocean County Health Department. “There have been numerous factors that have led to the increase but it’s important to note that many of the cases we are currently seeing are on the mild to moderate side than we saw earlier in the pandemic. Recovery time is shorter and the number of deaths have been decreasing.
“The OCHD and much of the public health community expected some type of increase heading into fall. There were a number of religious holidays/observances, services and other social gatherings around the county that contributed. Those schools with students back in the classroom, sports programs and even other activities outside of the school environment that bring children together is another one of the challenges we anticipated. Through our contact tracing efforts we’ve also identified a number of single households with as many as ten or more family members getting sick,” he said.
Contact tracing is a technique in which medical staff talk to someone who tested positive to find out who they have been in close contact with recently. That way, they can inform other people that they need to get tested as well.
“For the most part schools in Ocean County have been doing a tremendous job following their readiness plans that they worked diligently on all summer and now put into practice. Much of the credit needs to go to the school nurses working the front lines and enforcing the safety guidelines and protocols. Being prepared has been the key. Practices such as minimizing movement within the school, moving only teachers around instead of students, social distancing and how to respond should someone get sick are just some of the steps in place to limit contact and contain transmission,” he said.
Despite recent news that a vaccine might be on the way, the Health Department is still urging residents to wear a mask, engage in social distancing, get a flu shot, get tested, and stay away from large gatherings.
“We’ve come so far since the start of the pandemic and the last thing anyone wants is this latest setback to derail our common goal to help slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus and reduce community spread. Let’s hope this latest uptick may act as a bit of a wakeup call for those who may have become a little complacent and thought we were out of the woods. The pandemic is far from over and it will take everyone to pitch in and do their part to get those numbers back down especially as the pandemic and flu season converge and we head into the colder months and heart of the busy holiday season,” Lippai said.
The full breakdown of cases is on OCHD.org. For more information, you can call 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.
The state’s Department of Health hotline is 1-800-222-1222 or by dialing 2-1-1. Other related sources; for medical COVID-19 questions call 1-800-962-1253 (24/7) or Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive alerts.