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New Jersey Health Officials Trying To Contain COVID-19 Outbreak As Cases Surge In Ocean County

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- There's growing concern about the coronavirus in Ocean County, New Jersey, where the positivity rate is now at an alarming 16%.

It's got health officials scrambling to contain the outbreak.

The surge of new cases has been linked to religious observances.

"There have been reports of some large gatherings, weddings, funerals, where social distancing and wearing masks may not have been consistently followed," state health commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

Persichilli says in the last week there have been 1,214 new cases of COVID-19 in Ocean County. Of those, 840 were out of Lakewood.


To make matters worse, contact tracing hasn't been as effective as they'd hoped.

"Right now, those willing to give contacts is under 50%," Persichilli said.

To try to help get a handle of the situation, Gov. Phil Murphy hosted a roundtable with state and local leaders.

"No one is here to point fingers or to cast blame," the governor said.

But there is a feeling of blame, at least for Duvi Honig. He's the founder of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce. He says the numbers don't always tell the whole story.

"We have large families, so the families still stay together. So if you have eight kids and the parents and they go together, chances are they're all going to be positive, but it's really one," Honig told CBS2's Kevin Rincon.

One number the state is concerned about is the positivity rate. While a majority of the state is seeing rates around 2%, Lakewood's most recent positivity rate was 27.82%. That's higher than anywhere else in the state.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Murphy says their goal is to increase testing, contact tracing and mask compliance. He says they're not here to shame.

"We have no tolerance for any amount, not a speck that would creep into this finger-pointing stuff," Murphy said.

One area that has for now remained mostly unscathed is schools. The number of kids and staff who have been infected remains relatively low.

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