TRENTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- COVID cases continue to soar in the Garden State with 6,840 new positive cases reported on Tuesday - the sixth straight day above 6,000 cases.
New Jersey is seeing its highest number of COVID cases since last January when the state peaked with just over 6,900 cases.
Hospitalizations are also above 2,000 for the first time in eight months. Another 34 deaths related to COVID were confirmed on Tuesday.
Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by about 2,394, an increase of nearly 66%, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said during a news conference on Monday that the surge is most likely due to the delta and omicron variants.
The increase in cases is also impacting schools with more than two dozen across the state switching to virtual classes.
Governor Phil Murphy said on Tuesday that he hopes schools will not have to go virtual next year and "we are going to do everything we can to stay in person."
The 'test to stay' program, just approved by CDC, will start to be implemented as a pilot program in New Jersey schools early next year, he added.
The demand for testing is leading to long waits in places such as Paramus, where people waited for hours to get tested on Monday, with the site even turning people away three hours before closing time because of the high demand.
Murphy says the state is trying to meet testing needs.
"We are significantly ramping up our rapid testing capacity throughout the state and folks should go out to get a free rapid test if they are visiting others," he said. "To do that, we currently have over 100 free testing sites throughout the state."
New Jersey's largest city is requiring that masks be worn in all public indoor spaces as coronavirus cases rise.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka issued an executive order as the city's positive cases reached 11.89 percent based on a three-day rolling average.
Baraka said if the city has over 15% positivity for three consecutive days, he will require proof of vaccination to enter businesses.
"And I think it's going to happen," he said. "We are going to put that in place. I'm going to sign an executive order, probably in the next couple of days, in a week or so, that's going to be put into effect in Newark. Brace yourself, get yourself ready."
Baraka and Public Safety Director Brian O'Hara also reinstated the mask mandate for all members of the Department of Public Safety, including Newark Police, Firefighters and Office of Emergency Management personnel, effective immediately.
"Our goal is to keep our residents and city employees safe in light of this recent spike in new COVID-19 cases and the emergency of the Omicron variant," Baraka said.
As people typically gather with family and friends during the holiday season, Baraka urges all residents and employees to take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, advising vaccinations and regular testing.
As mandates go back into effect, houses of worship are now left wondering what do they do as Christmas quickly approaches.
"This is the oldest church in the city of Newark. Old first church founded the city of Newark. This church is 355 years old," Rev. Dr. Betty Tom, Pastor First Presbyterian Church, said.
It is a church older than Newark itself. Rich in history. The pews have seen hundreds of years of a community embracing each other.
"These doors are open to whoever comes. People from our community come in. Those without addresses come in," Tom said.
But it's hard to embrace one another through a computer screen, so church leaders are debating what to do this weekend.
It is producing a lot of anxiety.
"We are wrestling whether we are going to have the Christmas Eve candlelight service because of what is happening," Tom said.
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