The idea of a COVID-19 vaccine passport in New Jersey is meeting resistance from both sides of the aisle—but for different reasons.
State Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R-10) announced plans to introduce legislation to prevent the use of COVID-19 vaccine passports in New Jersey that he believes could lead to discrimination against people based on their vaccination status. A similar bill will be introduced by 10th Legislative District Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano.
So-called vaccine passports are physical or electronic documents or credentials that could be used to demonstrate that an individual has been immunized against COVID-19. Opponents of the programs argue it could be used to prevent unvaccinated individuals from traveling, accessing public places or events, attending school, or working.
Murphy Open Minded
“In a free society that respects individual rights, we believe health decisions should be a personal, private choice that a patient doesn’t have to discuss with anyone but their doctor,” said Holzapfel in a press statement. “Our new legislation would prevent vaccine passports from being employed here in New Jersey.”
The planned introduction of the legislation comes as New York state will use the Excelsior Pass program which will allow people to prove their vaccination or COVID-19 status. It’s an idea that Gov. Phil Murphy said that he was open but expressed reservations when asked during a press briefing April 7
“I’ve been open-minded to it but I worry about the inequities that that brings, frankly,” said Murphy who referenced his uneasiness about government-issued IDs in the context of voting. “I think you got to be very careful about this. Now I’m not of the opinion that government, Big Brother getting into your life—that doesn’t bother me.”
“Government in the right way —and we’ve seen a lot of this over the past year—the right kind of government is exactly what we need in a lot of situations, but I do worry about inequities.” added Murphy.
The opennesses to the passport program from the governor drew concerns from a frequent Murphy critic—State Sen. Michael Testa (R-1), who stated a passport would continue the “rapid erosion of individual privacy rights threatens the liberties and freedoms of every New Jersey resident.”
“No government entity should require their residents to carry a ‘Vaccine Passport’ around to gain access to schools, businesses, and their daily life,” said Testa. “There is a balance between protecting public health without violating American Constitutional rights. Time and time Governor Murphy has crossed the line and we must ensure he is barred from enacting ‘Vaccine Passports’.”
Holzapfel’s legislation will make it unlawful to ask a person if they have received a COVID-19 vaccination or require a person to display proof of vaccination to conduct any business; travelling to, outside, or within the state; participation in any governmental or political activity; admission or enrollment into a preschool program, elementary or secondary school, college, university, and any child or adult day care program; entrance into or service from any place of business, including any market, restaurant, or store; and admission and service at any amusement park, concert venue, theater, or sporting event.
Additionally, the legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate against or to take any adverse action against any individual who has not received a COVID-19 vaccine or who does not disclose whether the individual has received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 6,151,001 as of April 20. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,849,901 residents have received their first dose with 2,547,397 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 52% have been administered the Pfizer vaccine, 44% the Moderna vaccine and 4% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Demographically, 55% of those vaccinated are women and 45% men. As for ethnicity, 56% are White, 10% Hispanic,10% other, 9% Asian, 8% unknown and 6% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 38% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 25% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 687,279 doses, Essex 477,070 doses, Morris 429,580 doses, Hudson 376,420 doses, Passaic 288,728 doses, Sussex 94,700 doses, and Warren 61,099 doses.
As of April 20, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 862,811 with 2,393 total new PCR cases reported. There were 600 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 121,064. The total number of individual cases for the state is 983,875. 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 40 new deaths, bringing that total to 22,614. The state listed probable deaths at 2,592, bringing the overall total to 25,206. State officials noted 21 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on April 20, Bergen had a total of 234 new confirmed cases and 61 probable cases, Essex 295 new cases and 52 probable cases, Hudson 207 new cases and 51 probable cases, Morris 99 new cases and 43 probable cases, Passaic 159 new cases and 43 probable cases, Sussex 48 new cases and seven probable cases, and Warren 25 cases and 10 new probable cases.
There are a total of 1,164 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 1,130 cases of the U.K. variant, 19 cases of the Brazilian P1 variant, 11 cases of the California variants, and two cases of the South African variant.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,560, followed by Bergen at 2,507, Hudson with 1,987, Passaic at 1,647, Morris at 953, Sussex at 223 and Warren County at 205.
In regards to probable deaths reported April 14, Bergen has 294, Essex has 291, Morris has 246, Hudson has 206, Passaic has 195, Sussex has 67 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission, it remained unchanged at 0.92 from the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of April 15, was 8.2%; by region, the rate was 8.2% in the North, 7.8% in the Central region and 8.9% in the South.
Officials reported 2,108 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,077 in the North, 596 in the Central and 435 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 463 are in intensive care units and 254 on ventilators. A total of 184 patients were discharged, while 230 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, 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 86,325, followed by Essex at 84,323, Middlesex at 83,454, Hudson at 77,391, Monmouth at 65,762, Ocean at 63,805, Passaic at 62,966, Union at 58,633, Camden at 46,473, Morris at 41,046, Burlington at 36,893, Mercer at 30,667, Gloucester at 25,297, Atlantic at 24,099, Somerset at 23,447, Cumberland at 13,925, Sussex at 11,123, Hunterdon at 8,473, Warren at 8,407, Salem at 5,152, and Cape May at 4,413.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 12,588, followed by Union at 10,488, Ocean at 9,688, Essex at 8,972, Hudson at 8,681, Monmouth at 7,706, Morris at 7,700, Middlesex at 7,054, Passaic at 6,892, Atlantic at 6,429, Burlington at 6,148, Camden at 6,118, Somerset at 5,511, Cape May at 4,392, Gloucester at 3,760, Mercer at 2,218, Cumberland at 2,202, Sussex at 2,106, Warren at 957, Hunterdon at 831 and Salem 512.
Another 737 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 245 outbreaks involving 1,094 cases have been reported, with five new outbreaks accounting for 24 cases in the weekly update on April 14.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 52 confirmed outbreaks with 198 cases, Passaic County has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 50 cases, Warren has 14 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Sussex has 12 confirmed outbreaks with 48 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has four confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 231 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,597 of the cases, broken down between 2,870 residents and 3,727 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,395 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,725 residents and 21,913 staff, for a total of 54,638 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,015 on April 20. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,863 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.