As new COVID-19 infections rise sharply in Philadelphia, city health officials are reinstating their indoor mask mandate.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole says cases have risen 50% in the last 10 days, but remain a fraction of what they were during the peak of the omicron wave. Despite the higher numbers, the city is not seeing a spike in the number of hospitalizations.

City health inspectors will begin enforcing the mask mandate on April 18.

The numbers in Philly are similar to what New Jersey has been seeing over the same period of time. Could that trigger renewed mask mandates in the Garden State?

So far, Gov. Phil Murphy has insisted that New Jersey has "to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to the endemic phase of this virus.”

In an interview with CNBC, Murphy said his hope was that "we'll be able to live with this in a normal way responsibly, like we do with the flu.”
Murphy has given no indication that he will impose new restrictions, but has said the state needs to be flexible, saying, "This virus dictates the terms, not us."

However, in the past, Murphy has used the specter of a return to mask mandates and other restrictions to try and boost vaccination rates.

As of Monday, New Jersey's rate of transmission (r/t) had risen to 1.23. An r/t of over 1.0 indicates there is active viral spread. For every 100 people infected, they are infecting another 123.

In the past, that would have been cause for concern, but even with a rising r/t, there has been no indication of a sharp rise in serious illness and hospitalizations remain around 330 statewide. In January more than 6,000 were hospitalized with, or for, COVID infections.

The CDC data tracker still lists community spread as 'low' for all 21 counties.

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Mask mandates have been one of the most controversial restrictions throughout the pandemic. This was especially true in schools, where mandates triggered parental protests outside school buildings and at board of education meetings. Gov. Murphy lifted the school mask mandate for schools on March 7.

Last Month, Murphy also lifted the mask mandate in state buildings, including motor vehicle offices and agencies.

However, masking is still required in all healthcare facilities and on busses, trains, planes and inside transportation hubs as per federal mandate.

Many New Jersey colleges and universities have relaxed mask rules in community settings, but still require them inside classrooms and libraries.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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NJ county fairs make a comeback: Check out the schedule for 2022

UPDATED 4/10: A current list of county fairs happening across the Garden State for 2022. From rides, food, animals, and hot air balloons, each county fair has something unique to offer.

(Fairs are listed in geographical order from South NJ to North NJ)

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:

Every NJ city and town's municipal tax bill, ranked

A little less than 30 cents of every $1 in property taxes charged in New Jersey support municipal services provided by cities, towns, townships, boroughs and villages. Statewide, the average municipal-only tax bill in 2021 was $2,725, but that varied widely from more than $13,000 in Tavistock to nothing in three townships. In addition to $9.22 billion in municipal purpose taxes, special taxing districts that in some places provide municipal services such as fire protection, garbage collection or economic development levied $323.8 million in 2021.