Key takeaways:
  • In 2020, New Jersey experienced two distinct waves of the novel coronavirus. There were broad regional differences in the number of COVID-19 cases during these waves.
  • The first wave of the pandemic, during spring 2020, largely affected northeastern New Jersey. The second wave, during late fall 2020, spread more broadly throughout the state.
    During the first wave, the peak case rate in New Jersey’s southern region was relatively small and occurred weeks after the peak in other parts of the state. In contrast, during the second wave, New Jersey’s southern region had case rates as high as northeastern New Jersey.
  • Municipality-level data reveal patterns that are masked by the county-level data: nearby municipalities can have COVID-19 case rates that are very different from each other and from the average rates within their county. Although the number of COVID-19 cases is only a single indicator of the pandemic’s effects on communities, the large variation across municipalities on this indicator supports the importance of examining variation in other indicators measuring COVID-19 impact.


In early 2020, as COVID-19 began spreading through New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 103. This order closed many schools and businesses and implemented social distancing measures to protect the public health of the State. In the past year, New Jerseyans across all regions have experienced health and economic impacts of the global pandemic. This coming year will see efforts to mitigate the continued detrimental effects of COVID-19 through vaccination and other measures, such as economic recovery tools.

Safeguarding health, improving the economy, and promoting wellness will require decisions about how to mobilize and allocate assets across the state. Organizations are advocating for resources in their local service areas, and government and philanthropic leaders are creating programs that aim to allocate resources equitably. With the goal of providing information to aid these decisions, this brief describes the timeline of COVID-19 progression at the municipality-level across New Jersey.


This project was funded through a grant from the Rutgers Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. Principal Investigators are Drs. Sarah Allred (WRI) and Emily Greenfield (Rutgers School of Social Work).


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