President Biden's recent comments about the pandemic being over has sparked some concern that the public wouldn't continue to take proactive measures.

“The pandemic is over — We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” Biden said in responding to a question during a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday on CBS.

COVID in New Jersey

New Jersey has confirmed 2.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the roughly two and a half years since the virus was reported in New Jersey.

Out of the state’s confirmed cases, 133,682 COVID patients have at some point been hospitalized.

Over the more than two and a half years since the first known COVID cases in New Jersey, roughly 31.3 million total PCR test results have been processed and reported across the state.

COVID confirmed cases April 2020 to Sept 2022 (NJDOH)
COVID confirmed cases April 2020 to Sept 2022 (NJDOH)
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Over the same time span from March 2020 through September, there have been 31,577 total confirmed deaths linked to COVID, with another 3,112 total probable deaths.

COVID deaths 2020 - Sept 2022 (NJDOH)
COVID deaths 2020 - Sept 2022 (NJDOH)
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New phase of the pandemic

“We are entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic where most Americans could be protected against serious illness with a single, annual vaccine. It’s nothing new – it’s what we do with the flu,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday before Biden's "60 Minutes" interview aired.

What Gov. Murphy said after Biden's comments

Gov. Phil Murphy did not address the president's pandemic comment directly but shared a photo after receiving his latest COVID vaccine booster on Saturday along with first lady Tammy Murphy.

“Just received my COVID booster with @FirstLadyNJ at today’s Nurture NJ Family Festival in Newark! These new boosters offer outstanding protection and are key to our continued fight against COVID,” Murphy said in a tweet.

Better equipped — but not free from COVID?

“While science has helped to advance our management of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, the disease is still very much evident in our U.S. population,” Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, said in a written statement on Tuesday.

“This is in great part due to human behaviors and motivations — including subpar vaccination uptake — which continue to place all of us at risk for infection. So, while we are better equipped to control this virus biologically, we are by no means free of it,” he continued.

COVID hospitalizations and deaths by county (NJDOH)
COVID hospitalizations and deaths by county (NJDOH)
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People are still dying

Following the 60 Minutes interview, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra was asked about the country’s status with COVID.

“Make no mistake — people are still dying. And, what the president is saying is that we all want to get back to where we were before COVID,” Becerra said in a clip aired by CBS News.

“My concern also is that some will interpret the concept of the pandemic ending to mean there is no more disease,” Halkitis said.

“Indeed, we are moving in the correct direction, but COVID-19 is now endemic to many nations around the world for the foreseeable future, which means people will continue to become infected and some will die — especially those who do not engage in proactive vaccination behaviors.”

COVID confirmed cases April 2020 - Sept 2022 by age (NJDOH)
COVID confirmed cases April 2020 - Sept 2022 by age (NJDOH)
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Impact of vaccinations on COVID pandemic

Unvaccinated people had three times the risk of infection and three times the risk of hospitalization than those who had been fully vaccinated with at least one additional dose or booster, according to the state Department of Health, as of late August.

COVID deaths underlying conditions 2020 - Sept 2022 (NJDOH)
COVID deaths underlying conditions 2020 - Sept 2022 (NJDOH)
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“The virus doesn’t outsmart us; we as people allow it to spread and persist," Halkitis added.

State health officials are continuing to push for COVID vaccination and booster shots alongside flu shots, as the fall season ramps up.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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