Two weeks into the lifting of the state's school mask mandate, and there is no indication it has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases in New Jersey.

There were concerns by some that unmasking kids in the close confines of a classroom would lead to a spike in COVID cases, but that does not appear to be the case.

According to figures released by the New Jersey Department of Health on Sunday, all 21 counties are listed as having a low community transmission rate.

Only 504 positive COVID tests were recorded by the state as of Sunday, and just 419 patients statewide were hospitalized with or because of COVID. The state did record another 2 deaths linked to the virus.

The rate of transmission is at .85 and has been slowly rising over the last few weeks. However, anything below 1.0 indicates the virus is not actively spreading.

NJ Dept of Health
NJ Dept of Health

If there is an area of concern, it's the increase in cases of the new BA.2 variant. BA.2 is actually a further mutation of the omicron strain of COVID.

CDC data shows 39% of the new cases sequenced in New Jersey are BA.2. It was first detected in the Garden State in January.

Federal health officials have predicted this subvariant will drive a surge in COVID cases in the coming weeks, but are optimistic it will not lead to a sharp increase in hospitalizations.

BA.2 has shown to be 50-60% more contagious than omicron, but causes no more severe illness.

It has been called by some international health officials the 'stealth variant,' because it was initially very hard to detect. Scientists have gotten better at detecting its unique gene sequence.

Gov. Phil Murphy said last week he is also anticipating a rise in the number of cases due to the spread of BA.2, but did not anticipate the need to return to mandatory masking or any other severe restrictions.

With Spring arriving in New Jersey, and more people moving outside and opening up doors and windows, the increased fresh air and ventilation are also likely to hinder the spread of this new variant.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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