SEA GIRT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey’s COVID numbers are on the rise, and the governor is reserving the right to reinstate a mask mandate if things continue to trend upward.

The health commissioner and Gov. Phil Murphy are now recommending both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents wear masks in indoor settings when there is increased risk.

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Many are voluntarily covering their faces again as officials warn of a spike in COVID cases and beg people to get vaccinated.

Monmouth County has been number one with COVID activity for the past few weeks. The county’s regional health commission officer, David Henry, says this is a problem.

“Even though numbers are low, anywhere between 93 and 100, we’re still concerned that those numbers are significant,” he said.

COVID VACCINE

He says several factors are at play — not enough people are vaccinated and the Delta variant is driving the spike.

“Seventy-four percent of the new COVID cases are basically based on the Delta variant,” Henry said.

The highly transmissible variant is also penetrating the vaccinated.

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That is why Murphy and the state health department are calling for residents to take more precautions and wear a mask in places in the following situations:

  • crowded indoor settings
  • anywhere inside where there’s close contact with people who may not be fully vaccinated
  • indoors where you don’t know the vaccine status of others
  • anywhere there is someone who is immunocompromised or at a higher risk for severe disease

In a statement, the governor also said he reserves the right to take more drastic action, including a statewide mask mandate.

Dr. Perry Halkitis, with Rutgers School of Public Health, is worried about the fall when more people will participate in indoor activites.

“Human behavior has radically changed over the course of the last month. People have stopped distancing, have stopped wearing masks, have been doing big social gatherings,” Halkitis told CBS2’s Meg Baker.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Local business owners are getting nervous, especially in the food industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic’s restrictions.

“It’s been really great to have things back to normal and you just hope and keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t come back,” said restaurant owner Joe Leone Introna.

Halkitis made the point that the virus is far more dangerous when unvaccinated and getting vaccinated is the number one thing we can do as a community to stop the spread. If you are already vaccinated, it’s time to remember to bring your mask with you again indoors.

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CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team