State health commissioner warns of delta variant, pushes for more vaccinations

Judy Persichilli on ending a 'once in a century' pandemic that has devastated New Jersey

As different coronavirus variants spread around the world and in New Jersey, health officials are confident that fully vaccinated individuals can go maskless and be safe.

But in the past few weeks, the World Health Organization has urged people to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing even if they are fully vaccinated to prevent the spread of variants. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state officials have shared contradicting information about mask use, causing even more confusion among residents.

State health commissioner Judy Persichilli does not believe the state will be issuing mask mandates or other restrictions with the spread of variants like the B.1617.2 also known as the delta variant.

“What we will be doing and we are doing this right now is making sure every county and every municipality in the state reaches a high watermark for vaccination rates,” said Persichilli. “We are nearing 70% and higher in most of our age groups.”

The delta variant — which originated in India — was found in about 27% of cases that were sequenced in the past four weeks, according to state data. Persichilli says officials are concerned because variant cases have been increasing. Variants have been shown to be more transmissible and could lead to more hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated individuals. The alpha variant from the U.K. is still predominant and was found in about 40% of cases that were sequenced in the past four weeks.

Officials continue to be adamant about getting as many adults and children vaccinated as possible to curb the spread of the virus and new variants.

“We do want to be a leader in protecting the people in New Jersey from once-in-a-century pandemic that has been just devastating to New Jerseyans,” said Persichilli. “We have to stop it and only way to stop it is not to give this virus an accepting host.”

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