This Thursday, March 4, will mark a year since the first case of the coronavirus was discovered in New Jersey.
In any other year, the fight for social justice after the death of George Floyd or an election that ended with an insurrection attempt would be the defining issues of the day.
But in the last calendar year, the death of over a half million people from the coronavirus in the U.S.—with New Jersey passing 23,000 just a few short days ago—has led to the disruption of our lives, touching every facet of our daily routine.
The new normal—a wretched term that conjures up images of the 9/11 attacks—now includes having to wear masks once we leave our front door, prolonged separations from loved ones in nursing homes, Zoom calls to conduct business if you are still lucky to have a job, and students forced out of their classrooms, away from their friends and teachers.
We have been faced with a constant barrage of news that has worn us down, both emotionally and physically, in the last 365 days.
Looking back, there have been successes and mistakes made along the way—by leaders of both parties on state and federal levels. For the most part, we believe those making the decisions in New Jersey have overwhelmingly made ones in the moment with the best intentions.
We urge that a full and transparent postmortem begin sooner rather than later—not one focused on a gotcha game of politics in a gubernatorial election year. While not the way we would want, New Jersey Republicans in the State Senate and Assembly will begin a series of independent hearings this week attempting to get answers about the actions of the Murphy Administration after repeatedly asking for a bipartisan committee in Trenton to conduct a review.
What the new information the hearings will bring is unknown. But after a long year, we are here to declare that the sacrifices we have all made are leading to better days ahead and closer than most would guess.
Vaccine distribution is growing by the week after it was turned around in seemingly record time. The Garden State alone is closing in on 2 million doses administered with over a half million already fully vaccinated. A one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine approval is all but certain and studies are showing the Pfizer vaccine can reduce transmissions after one dose.
New Jersey itself has begun to ease restrictions, increasing capacity limits for restaurants and bars, allowing parents to watch their children play sports in person and religious institutions to open their doors to more of their followers in the last month. Gov. Phil Murphy has signaled, with health metrics continuing to improve after a Winter spike, more moves reopening New Jersey are ahead in the coming days and weeks.
As Murphy has stated repeatedly, the work to defeat the virus is due to the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans that continue to wear their masks, wash their hands repeatedly, remain social distance, stay home when they are sick, get tested and cooperate with contact tracers. We thank you for breaking the back of this virus that has restricted our normal schedule.
The month of March roared in like a lion a year ago, never abetting in a way that changed the way we live. Here is to the hope that this Spring and the seasons that follow will be more lamb-like, allowing us to leave this historic year behind.