The New Normal in N.Y.: High Virus Rates and a Steady Stream of Cases

New Jersey — which has among the highest case rates in the nation — has been grappling with a 20 percent increase in cases over the last two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Judith Persichilli, the state’s health commissioner, called transmission “pretty rampant” in a news briefing on Monday.

But even so, Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced on Monday that he would soon ease the seating capacity limits for sports arenas and indoor catered events. He maintained that even after doubling the indoor arena limits to 20 percent occupancy, places like the Prudential Center in Newark could still maintain six feet of distance between fans.

Mr. Murphy attributed the recent spike in cases to a host of reasons: residents who may be relaxing precautions at small indoor gatherings; faster-spreading virus variants; New Jersey’s status as the densest state in the country; and the state’s proximity to New York City, where virus cases are also high.

The state is sequencing only about 2 percent of its more than 4,000 daily cases for variants, but among those, the variants first identified in Britain and New York appear to be the most common ones detected, officials said.

“It’s the fatigue. It’s our location. It’s how densely populated we are,” Dr. Edward Lifshitz, medical director of the state’s Communicable Disease Service, said of why the state is seeing an increase. “It’s our neighborhood, with New York City right across the river. And, yes, I do think the variants are playing a role as well.”

Connecticut, which lifted most capacity restrictions in restaurants and other venues recently, is also seeing a significant increase in cases. New cases are trending younger, and variants first detected in Britain and New York are estimated to make up about 40 percent of the cases in the state.

Hospitalizations are also creeping up, to the highest levels in a month. But partly because its vaccination campaign moved more quickly than most states, fatalities are low, at about six a day.

“The age group with the highest case rates are 20-29 year olds,” a recent state health alert warned.

Tracey Tully contributed reporting from New Jersey.

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