A whopping 9,711 positive cases reported Wednesday sets a new daily record in New Jersey, and the state has now surpassed 6,000 positive cases for the past seven days.
The positivity rate of 16.82% is the highest statewide since last Christmas, when it hit 17.09%. Hospitalizations stand at 2,100, the highest since last April, but are still about 1,500 fewer than the same time last year.
After two large Paterson high schools -- Eastside and John F. Kennedy - closed early Tuesday and switched to remote learning through Thursday, the school district opted to switch all schools to remote instruction.
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The district will go fully remote when classes were scheduled to resume on Tuesday, January 4. Classes will then resume in person on Tuesday, January 18.
"The rising numbers of COVID-19 cases due to multiple variants are cause for concern for all of us," Superintendent Eileen Shafer said. " A surge of new cases has occurred in northeastern New Jersey, and it is expected that the trend will continue through the holiday break."
A handful of other New Jersey schools announced they are closing temporarily amid the current COVID surge.
Hackensack Public Schools announced late Wednesday that due to the rising COVID cases, remote learning is the safest option for students and teachers for Thursday.
Officials said they have every reason to believe that they will return to in-person learning on Jan. 3, 2022.
South Orange middle schools are closed for the rest of the week, while Irvington schools will remain closed through January 10. In Chatham, schools will do early dismissal this week.
Governor Phil Murphy said he's looking into launching a "test and stay" program in the new year that would allow unvaccinated students exposed to COVID to remain in the classroom after testing negative.
Hospitalizations are also above 2,000 for the first time in eight months. Another 28 deaths related to COVID were confirmed on Wednesday.
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In Newark, Mayor Ras Baraka is taking additional steps to try to stop the omicron surge, including a new mask mandate.
He announced Wednesday night that he himself tested positive for COVID-19. He said he is not experiencing symptoms and his wife and son have tested negative.
In Newark, masks are now required inside public buildings, and police, firefighters, and emergency personnel must be masked regardless of vaccination status.
Montclair has issued a similar vaccine mandate.
Garden State residents can now request to have a free PCR saliva test sent to their house.
But if you want that result before Christmas, you're running out of time. Vault Health officials say you should request one immediately for the best chance to get the result back before the weekend.
You can request a test at: learn.vaulthealth.com/nj
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