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Malinowski, Menendez Want Federal Commission to Prepare U.S. For Future Pandemics

Two North Jersey Democrats are leading the push for a federal commission to investigate the nation’s action in the last year to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Rep. Tom Malinowski in the House and Sen. Bob Menendez in the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to create an independent, non-partisan commission, closely modeled after the 9/11 Commission, to assess the nation’s preparedness and response to the coronavirus and provide recommendations to improve the U.S.’s readiness for future epidemics and pandemics. 

“The American people deserve a thorough, non-partisan, investigation into how our government responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, what went wrong, and how we can contain and prevent future pandemics,” said Malinowski. “This week our country reached the unimaginable milestone of 500,000 deaths. This can never be allowed to happen again.”

Independent Commission

The National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2021 establishes a ten-member independent body composed of prominent Americans with expertise in government service, public health, commerce, scientific research, public administration, intelligence gathering, national security, and/or foreign affairs. The National Coronavirus Commission will have a broad mandate and subpoena power to examine the facts related to the emergence and spread of COVID-19 in the United States. 

According to Menendez, lawmakers have a responsibility to do a thorough, independent review of what happened, what went wrong and what can be done better for the next public health emergency.

“Millions of American lives have been devastated, our health systems have been pushed to the brink, and our economy has been decimated.  We can never put our country, our communities and our families through this again,” said Menendez. “This isn’t about pointing fingers, but learning from our experiences and promising to do better. 

9/11 Lessons

The National Coronavirus Commission would craft policy recommendations after identifying the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic regarding the structure, coordination, management policies, and procedures of federal, state and local governments and nongovernmental entities.  

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the Republican co-sponsor in the Senate, noted modeling after the 9/11 Commission is key as it produced recommendations enacted into law.

“As our nation continues to respond to the current public health and economic crisis, we must also work to ensure that our country is better prepared for future epidemics and pandemics,” said Sen. Collins. “This legislation would establish a similar bipartisan commission that would assess our country’s successes as well as areas in need of improvement in responding to COVID-19.  It would also examine ways we can strengthen our public health systems and protect our communities.”

Bipartisan Backing

Those recommendations will seek to improve the ability of all levels of government and the private sector to prevent, respond to and prepare for future epidemics and pandemics, and mitigate the human, economic, and security costs of such events.

“Almost one year has passed since the Coronavirus struck our nation, and today we are still seeking information on our preparedness and response to this pandemic,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), the House cosponsor. “By establishing a bipartisan, bicameral National Coronavirus Commission we can ensure that we are prepared for any future global public health emergency and its potential threat to our National Security.”

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 2,453,289 as of March 7. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,619,541 residents have received their first dose with 833,532 their second; 53% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 47% the Pfizer. 

Demographically, 58% of those vaccinated are women and 42% men. As for ethnicity, 57% are White, 13% unknown, 13% other, 7% Asian, 6% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 42% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 23% are between the ages of 40-49, and 7% are between the ages of 18-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 280,845 doses, Essex 198,867 doses, Morris 181,952 doses, Hudson 117,786 doses, Passaic 111,121 doses, Sussex 38,213 doses, and Warren 24,750 doses. 

Daily Data

As of March 7, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 720,939 with 5,092 total new PCR cases reported over the weekend. There were 781 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 90,670. The total number of individual cases for the state is 811,609. Gov. Murphy previously noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.

As for those that have passed, the state reported 54 new deaths combined on March 6 and 7, bringing that total to 21,177. The state listed probable deaths at 2,397, bringing the overall total to 23,574. State officials noted 20 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on March 7, Bergen had a total of 252 new confirmed cases and 92 probable cases, Essex 187 new cases and 43 probable cases, Hudson 172 new cases and 52 probable cases, Morris 127 new cases and 42 probable cases, Passaic 156 new cases and 33 probable cases, Sussex 35 new cases and 16 probable cases, and Warren 39 cases and one probable cases.

State officials have identified a total of 134 cases of the B117 UK coronavirus variant in 20 counties in New Jersey, including eight in Essex County, seven in Morris County, seven in Hudson, four in Passaic, three in Warren, three in Bergen, and one in Sussex. 

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,431, followed by Bergen at 2,354, Hudson with 1,844, Passaic at 1,530, Morris at 908, Sussex at 211 and Warren County at 198.

In regards to probable deaths reported March 3, Bergen has 284, Essex has 275, Morris has 224, Hudson has 185, Passaic has 179, Sussex has 64 and Warren has 22.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission, it remained unchanged from the day before at 1.06. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of March 3, was 7.7%; by region, the rate was 8.0% in the North, 7.8% in the Central region and 6.1% in the South. 

Officials reported 1,792 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 924 in the North, 534 in the Central and 334 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 376 are in intensive care units and 232 on ventilators. A total of 507 patients were discharged over the weekend.

Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospilizations, intensive care units, ventilators and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 71,148, followed by Middlesex at 69,373, Essex at 69,198, Hudson at 65,385, Ocean at 53,564, Monmouth at 53,422, Passaic at 53,305, Union at 50,218, Camden at 40,110, Morris at 33,230, Burlington at 31,561, Mercer at 26,694, Gloucester at 21,481, Atlantic at 20,191, Somerset at 19,223, Cumberland at 12,358, Sussex at 8,201, Warren at 6,594, Hunterdon at 6,528, Salem at 4,309, and Cape May at 3,786.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 9,191, followed by Union at 8,096, Ocean at 7,099, Essex at 6,574, Hudson at 6,021, Monmouth at 5,717, Morris at 5,713, Middlesex at 5,268, Atlantic at 5,240, Passaic at 5,026, Camden at 4,862, Burlington at 4,645, Somerset at 4,311, Cape May at 3,646, Gloucester at 3,159, Cumberland at 2,158, Mercer at 1,706, Sussex at 1,268, Warren at 743, Hunterdon at 637, and Salem 461.

Another 1,058 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 160 outbreaks involving 765 cases, with eight new outbreaks accounting for 28 cases reported in the weekly update on March 3. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 37 confirmed outbreaks with 155 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Morris County has four confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Hudson County has three confirmed outbreaks with 13 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 296 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 11,943 of the cases, broken down between 5,874 residents and 6,069 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,270 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,301 residents and 21,116 staff, for a total of 53,417 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,924 on March 5. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,827 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.

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