Photo Credit: Google Maps
The Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ.

According to NJ health officials, 26% of all new coronavirus cases in the state over the past week came from one Ocean County, which averaged 157 positive tests per day in that time, reported Wednesday. The same state official said Lakewood is a particular area of concern.

The next-highest counties over the past week are Middlesex – an average of 54 cases per day, and Monmouth – 44 cases per day.


An official for Ocean County’s Department of Health told that Lakewood, Toms River, and Jackson account for close to 60% of all the cases in the county since last March’s outbreak.

Lakewood, which has seen a steady expansion of the local Orthodox Jewish community—has the largest population in Ocean County and is among the top 10 most densely populated NJ cities, with more than 100,000 residents.

New Jersey has seen 208,994 cases since the start of the pandemic, but back then, Ocean County was only seventh in the number of cases there – about 13,000. Now, in the wake of Yom Kippur, Ocean County appears to be New Jersey’s first major hotspot since the outbreak started to decline significantly several months ago.

Lakewood is a hub of Orthodox Judaism, home to the Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the biggest yeshivas in the world, with 6,500-students. Orthodox Jews comprise more than half the town’s population and wield considerable political power.

Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles told NJ Advance Media on Tuesday that “the alarm level has been raised,” and “People have started to respond to it. I think it’s been a wakeup call for the community.”

The mayor blames what he calls “pandemic fatigue” for the recent rise in new cases. spoke to Republican State Senator Robert Singer from Ocean County, who suggested the Jewish holidays and the new school year may explain the surge in new cases. “We’re getting a handle on it. We’re doing the testing, we’re following the directions. I think we’ll be OK,” he promised.


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