New daily COVID-19 cases skyrocketed today, Sept. 30, with health officials reporting 722. 

Although the number of daily cases has gone down since Sept. 25 when 612 were reported, health officials were still concerned with Monday’s numbers at 561 and yesterday’s at 505.

After months of reporting daily new cases between 200 and 300, in mid-September daily case counts began to exceed 400.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the three counties with highest new case counts are Ocean with 188; Monmouth with 75; and Middlesex with 67. Bergen and Hudson counties each had 45 new cases, which Murphy said was a steep drop-off for those counties. According to the state, Essex reported 42 new cases.  

Of Ocean County’s 188 new cases, 134 of those are in Lakewood, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. The county has a positivity rate of 5.44 percent up from the 3.70 reported on Monday, and Lakewood has a positivity rate of 27 percent. 

Murphy praised law enforcement, faith leaders and school officials in Lakewood and Ocean County for their cooperation and partnership. The community is coming off of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur high holidays. He also emphasized that state officials have seen outbreaks in different kinds of communities, such as in colleges and universities. 

Murphy said health officials are doing a full investigation and looking for any and all likely contributing factors to the number of cases. Lakewood’s schools have reopened for full in-person learning, and a holiday period has just concluded, he said. 

For Monmouth and Middlesex counties, Persichilli said officials have identified cases being connected to house parties or gatherings of young people, in the 19-24 age range. 

“Whether it’s Community A or Community B, we’ve got to root for each other,” Murphy said, and emphasized that the prevention efforts are focused on saving lives, first and foremost. As a reminder of the human toll the virus has taken, Murphy said that a funeral had just taken place for a 46-year-old Lakewood man who died from COVID-19, leaving behind a family with children. 

Friday’s press briefing will take place at an Ocean County round table with local and county law enforcement, officials and faith leaders.

School COVID-19 dashboard

The Department of Health has launched a new online dashboard to track transmission of COVID-19 in schools. 

As of Sept. 30, the state has identified 11 different outbreaks in schools, affecting 43 people.

An outbreak is defined by two or more people being diagnosed with COVID-19 in a given area, not from the same household or do not have close contact with each other, Persichilli said.

The dashboard will post counties with outbreaks, but individual schools and districts with outbreaks will not be identified. 

“Believe me, if you’re in the school, you know it, it’s not news to you,” Murphy said. 

Schools are required to notify families when a case of COVID-19 is reported. 

Eleven schools with outbreaks is small considering there are 3,000 schools in the state. Additionally, the data goes back over two months when schools were first opening up for staff but not yet for students, said Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer.

Murphy said the low numbers were encouraging, but said officials and schools should not let their guard down. “The last thing we want to do is pat ourselves on the back, and wake up the next day and find those numbers have gone up by multiples,” Murphy said. 

Today’s numbers

The state positivity rate is three percent, up from 2.48 percent reported the day before. It is the first time since July 17 that the positivity rate has been at three percent or higher, said Murphy.

The virus transmission has increased from 1.13 percent on Sept. 29 to 1.15 percent. 

With the 722 new cases reported today, to date 205,275 New Jerseyans have tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials reported nine new deaths related to the virus, down from 10 on Sept. 29, bringing the total to 14,335 deaths. The number of probable deaths has declined from 1,791 to 1,789. Hospitals also reported eight new deaths that have not yet been confirmed as COVID-19. 

The central region of New Jersey, which includes Ocean and Monmouth counties, has an overall positivity rate of 3.79 percent. The northern region has a positivity rate of 2.73 percent, and the southern region has a rate of 2.4 percent. 

Hospitals reported 479 COVID-19 related patients last night, including 108 critical care patients with 39 on ventilators. On Monday night, hospitals reported 443 COVID-19 patients, with 101 in critical care and 34 on ventilators. 

Essex County officials reported 34 new cases, bringing the county total to 21,088. The number of deaths remains at 1,900. 

Montclair officials reported two new cases, bringing the total to 564, and the number of deaths remains at 57.