Gov. Murphy Warns People To 'Assume' New COVID Strain Is In NJ

Tom Davis

NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy has warned residents that they should assume a quicker-spreading strain of the coronavirus is in New Jersey, even if the state has yet to confirm its presence.

Murphy urged residents this week to take precautions and continue to wear masks and social distance since the new variant is "significantly more contagious" than the coronavirus strain that arrived in the United States last year.

In the United Kingdom, new lockdowns have recently been imposed to combat the new variant's spread.

"Let's remember that unless the science has changed over the weekend, and I don't think it has, it's a strain that is more easily transmissible, but not necessarily more lethal," Murphy said during a Monday news conference.

State Epidemiologist Christina Tan said New Jersey has not identified the variant B117 but she did note that there are over 60 cases in at least eight states, including New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

"So it would not be surprising that eventually this variant is identified here as well," she said during the news conference.

"In fact, I'm the least qualified person up here to say this. I'd go one step further: We're assuming it's here. Right? Is that fair to say, Tina?" Murphy asked during the news conference

"Yeah, and the most important thing, the takeaway is that the management, the public health management doesn't change," Tan said.

If anything, Tan said, the strain's possible presence in New Jersey "reinforces the need that we have to continue to social distance, masks, stay home when you're sick, wash your hands, get vaccinated."

Tan said the evidence suggests that there isn't more severe disease associated with this variant, but because it's more transmissible, "we have to make sure that we don't lose our guard."

"Basically it's the same stuff we preach, but doubling down with intensity," Murphy said.

Last week, the first case of the new strain was discovered in Pennsylvania. Read more: 1st Case Of New Coronavirus Strain Confirmed In PA

The confirmed case is in Dauphin County, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said. "This variant is the same one that was first discovered in England in December," according to the department's release.

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This article originally appeared on the Moorestown Patch