As New Jersey’s COVID-19 cases trend downward and vaccination efforts continue, Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans are underway to end the pandemic-related public health emergency.
After being signed into effect on March 9, 2020, Murphy extended the state of emergency numerous times as part of the overall effort to combat the spread of the virus.
On May 14, Murphy renewed the status for another 30 days, until mid-June, but noted that he hopes the state Legislature will advance measures “that will allow the public health emergency to expire” but also ensures New Jersey has “the necessary tools and flexibility to continue the fight against the pandemic.”
“I extended the current public health emergency for what should be the final time,” stated Murphy at a press briefing May 17.
Working With Legislators
“After an extremely difficult year, we are seeing the results of our mitigation efforts and our successful vaccination program,” the governor said. “In order to continue on the path to normalcy, we need all available resources to continue our progress in vaccinating New Jerseyans and finally beating back this pandemic.”
The governor said he is working with fellow Democratic lawmakers State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) on legislation.
Following Murphy’s latest extension, New Jersey will soon enter its 15th month under the emergency order. The Garden State—which was hit early and hard by the pandemic—instituted some of the most severe restrictions in the country.
‘The Worst Is Behind Us’
Under the state of emergency, Murphy has issued numerous executive orders, such as mask mandates, capacity limits and business restrictions. The drastic measures, the governor has said, were needed to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Sweeney said he believes “the worst is behind us and now is the time to move forward to restore the quality of life for the people of New Jersey,” vowing the State Senate will work with Murphy and the Assembly “to overcome the many challenges ahead.”
“The new normal won’t be normal for some time,” Sweeney added. “We have to make the best use of our resources, our abilities and our determination to address the needs of our citizens.”
Coughlin echoed the sentiment, saying he is encouraged by recent data and looks forward to “a return to normalcy.” Now, he said, leaders will work to “produce legislation that enables us to safely and responsibly reopen our state as we seek to spur the economy and create jobs.”
“We will come back stronger than ever,” he said.
UPDATE May 20: Speaker Coughlin postponed of a full Assembly vote May 20, stating “After speaking with legislative colleagues, advocates and other interested parties I have decided to postpone today’s vote on A-5777 in order to refine it so that it is the fairest and most responsible bill possible. I am committed to ending the public health emergency. This is extremely important legislation that we must get right.”
GOP Remains Critical Of Murphy
As one of the states that has been slower to lift safety mandates, Murphy has been repeatedly blasted by Republicans for keeping the order in effect.
In a statement after the announcement, State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-24) said, “There was no reason to drag this out like this. It’s time to bring this one-man rule to an end.”
“The legislature should have been involved early on, but we were excluded and the residents of New Jersey paid a heavy price for it,” Oroho said.
Assemblyman Edward Thomson (R-30) said, “For over a year, New Jersey residents and businesses have had their lives turned upside down by these pandemic-related orders. Our residents have suffered long enough and the governor should follow the science, not just when it conveniently justifies his actions.”
Murphy’s announcement comes as New Jersey, along with Connecticut and New York, took a large step May 19 in easing some restrictions, such as ending outdoor gathering limits and removing fixed, percentage-based indoor capacity limits for public places.
However, New Jersey will keep its mandate in place requiring people to wear masks indoors, despite newly-updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that says face coverings are no longer needed for fully-vaccinated individuals in most situations, according to Murphy.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 8,139,656 in-state, plus an additional 357,974 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 8,497,974 as of May 19. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,770,156 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 166,022 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 3,936,176.
Demographically, 54% of those vaccinated are women and 46% men. As for ethnicity, 53% are White, 13% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 8% unknown. In regards to the age of those having received the vaccine, 28% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 28% are between the ages of 30-49, and 14% are between the ages of 12-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 900,989 doses (422,179 fully vaccinated), Essex 660,318 doses (299,745), Hudson 562,576 doses (250,968), Morris 542,507 doses (254,721), Passaic 402,519 doses (184,441), Sussex 124,784 doses (58,409), and Warren 79,777 doses (36,978).
As of May 19, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 884,221 with 504 total new PCR cases reported. There were 122 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 127,975. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,012,196.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 21 new deaths, bringing that total to 23,370. The state listed probable deaths at 2,660, bringing the overall total to 26,030. State officials noted 15 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on May 19, Bergen had a total of 40 new confirmed cases and 10 probable cases, Essex 73 new cases and five probable cases, Hudson 39 new cases and no new probable cases, Morris six new cases and nine probable cases, Passaic 47 new cases and four probable cases, Sussex seven new cases and eight probable cases, and Warren eight cases and one new probable case.
There are a total of 4,128 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 3,814 cases of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), 158 cases of the California variants (B.1.429 and B.1.427), 145 cases of the Brazilian (P.1) variant, and 11 cases of the South African (B.1.351) variant.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,664, followed by Bergen at 2,561, Hudson with 2,043, Passaic at 1,710, Morris at 968, Sussex at 234 and Warren County at 211.
In regards to probable deaths reported May 19, Bergen has 297, Essex has 296, Morris has 253, Hudson has 213, Passaic has 197, Sussex has 67 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission reported May 19, it declined to 0.50 from 0.53 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of May 14, was 2.8%; by region, the rate was 2.7% in the North, 2.9% in the Central region and 3.0% in the South.
Officials reported 782 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 377 in the North, 203 in the Central and 202 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 168 are in intensive care units and 110 on ventilators. A total of 97 patients were discharged, while 74 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 89,353, followed by Middlesex at 84,332, Essex at 84,260, Hudson at 78,444, Monmouth at 67,162, Ocean at 65,349, Passaic at 65,179, Union at 60,155, Camden at 48,616, Morris at 41,666, Burlington at 38,059, Mercer at 31,386, Gloucester at 26,391, Atlantic at 24,813, Somerset at 24,164, Cumberland at 14,745, Sussex at 11,596, Warren at 8,878, Hunterdon at 8,828, Salem at 5,516, and Cape May at 4,582.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,519, followed by Union at 10,977, Ocean at 10,116, Essex at 9,426, Hudson at 9,207, Morris at 8,201, Monmouth at 8,005, Middlesex at 7,418, Passaic at 7,299, Atlantic at 6,607, Camden at 6,563, Burlington at 5,994, Somerset at 5,741, Cape May at 4,544, Gloucester at 3,947, Mercer at 2,358, Sussex at 2,290, Cumberland at 2,212, Warren at 1,014, Hunterdon at 894, and Salem 534.
Another 747 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 281 outbreaks involving 1,263 cases, accounting for 18 additional outbreaks and 106 cases from the previous weekly update on May 10.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 53 confirmed outbreaks with 202 cases, Sussex has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 78 cases, Passaic County has 16 confirmed outbreaks with 57 cases, Warren has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 36 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has five confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 187 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 4,742 of the cases, broken down between 2,001 residents and 2,741 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,456 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,908 residents and 22,254 staff, for a total of 55,163.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,045 on May 19. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,885 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.