As the year comes to a close, the coronavirus continues to ravage the globe. Throughout the many months of the pandemic, countries around the world have encountered multiple waves, and along with them, new variants of COVID-19. These genetic variants add complexity to the containment of the virus, with some strains becoming better equipped to evade vaccines and/or increase transmission of the virus. The latest variant of COVID-19, ‘Omicron’, is sweeping the globe, and scientists are continuing to study its dynamics.
Current studies suggest that Omicron spread more easily than the original virus; however, how easily this variant spreads in direct comparison to the Delta variant is still unknown. Despite this uncertainty, the ease of transmission can be seen in the sheer numbers across the globe, the United States included. The number of COVID-19 cases in the US is on the rise once again and community transmission remains at a high level. While cases of the Delta variant were once the predominant strain of COVID-19 cases in the United States, it seems that the new dominant strain is Omicron. Research is, and will continue to be, ongoing as new data becomes available.
New Jersey and New York are now at the epicenter of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, a pattern which the country has not seen since the early days of the pandemic in 2020. In the first few months of 2020, the Northeastern states led the country in SARS-CoV-2 cases, finding hospitals inundated with an overabundance of patients and a woefully short stock of medical supplies. Since then, the landscape has thankfully changed for the better, with the introduction of multiple vaccines now available on the market. However, many states now face new challenges with the onslaught of Omicron.
With New Jersey leading the country in new cases, the state is rolling out public health measures to help increase testing. The New Jersey state Health Department has partnered with Vault Medical Services to provide free COVID-19 saliva testing to all New Jersey residents. This is an effort increase accessibility to testing, an important measure to identify and contain cases early to help slow the spread of the virus.
These measures are not meant to replace traditional COVID-19 testing, but are meant to complement existing efforts and make testing more accessible for those who cannot leave their home or have otherwise limited access to a testing center. This program comes at a good time, considering the holiday season and uptick of gatherings among families and friends around the new year.
Obtaining a free test can be done online via the Vault website, where simple instructions detail how to order the test, conduct a supervision session online, and how to ship your sample.
The rollout of free tests to residents across the Garden State marks one of the many measures the state is taking to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The current requirements ‘strongly recommend’ that residents utilize face coverings regardless of vaccination status; however, several cities across New Jersey already have mask mandates in place, as well. As of Wednesday, Hoboken will join the ranks of other NJ cities requiring mask mandates indoors.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all of New Jersey’s 21 counties are classified as having ‘high’ rates of coronavirus transmission. Given this statistic, it seems only prudent that the state continues to take precautions to help contain the virus. Following protocols which we know help—from masking to social distancing to simply washing one’s hands—seem like simple steps to take that can make a monumental impact on the trend of cases in the coming weeks and months.
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