A North Jersey Republican is taking aim at the commission that is the center of the COVID-19 health protocols controversy this week as the state reported over 5,000 positive tests on Dec. 3 and the highest total of confirmed new cases since Jan 29 of this year.
Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-40) is putting forth a bill to shakeup the State Capitol Joint Management Commission. The bill would increase the commission’s legislative representation to eight members from four and remove voting rights from the four executive branch members.
“The governor’s office does not even occupy the capitol complex, but they want to tell the legislative branch how to operate. They are completely overstepping their authority and attempting to derail democracy,” said DePhillips.
The actions of the commission have come under scrutiny from members of GOP due to their unhappiness with the new statehouse policy that went into effect Dec. 1. The new protocols require that all those entering the buildings must show ID and proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test conducted within the previous 72 hours. Additionally, on sight rapid tests were available to all entrants. The commission policy applies to elected lawmakers voting in person, all legislative staff members, reporters covering events, and anyone visiting the Statehouse, including those who want to speak at a hearing or protest a bill inside the building.
Besides vaccines and testing, the commission requires masks be worn by everyone in the State Capitol Complex in public areas. For Senate and Assembly galleries, capacity will be limited to one third of the seats and every other chair in committee shall not be used.
Republicans have fought back against the commission’s requirements. On the day the protocols went into effect, both incoming minority leaders filed a lawsuit to stop the rules from being put in place. A judge said he will hear oral arguments on the motion Dec. 13 on claims that the requirements are unfair to the public and unconstitutional.
But on the day of the first session, a chaotic scene unfolded as a number of Republican lawmakers did not comply with the COVID-19 protocols ushered in by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker that morning. The rules by the legislative leaders codifying the commission’s procedures were needed after a nonpartisan legal counsel said the commission did not have the authority to require legislators adhere to the same requirements of all those entering the Statehouse to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested.
After the actions by the GOP Assembly resulted in a nearly three hour delay in the Assembly for its session, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) stated he was “outraged that 28 members of the minority caucus could not be bothered to exhibit the decency or humanity (just) to have a couple minutes on the TV news. To be clear, in the midst of this sacrifice the only thing that was asked of the legislators here today to do was to show that they weren’t infected, to care about their colleagues and the people in the chamber.”
Excluding Executive Branch
The commission presently consists of four members from the executive branch and four members from the legislative branch, including two members from the minority party, which is currently the Senate and Assembly Republican offices’ executive directors. Democrats currently have a majority on the commission that voted to implement the policy.
DePhillips’ bill would give Senate and Assembly minority leaders two appointments each to the commission. Additionally, executive branch members would be responsible for executive facility management and the others would oversee the legislative portions of the capitol complex.
“My bill restores a commonsense balance and ensures the appropriate separation of powers,” DePhillips said. “It is imperative that we give lawmakers who were elected to serve as the voice of their constituents a seat at the decision-making table. Any matters that concern the legislative process and people’s ability to participate fully in that process must include legislators.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,867,873 in-state, plus an additional 522,775 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,390,648 as of Dec. 3. The total includes 113,982 between the ages of 5-11 who have received the vaccine.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,017,095 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 223,748 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,240,843. State officials reported boosters and third shots of 752,863 for Pfizer and 625,300 for Moderna. A total of 29,274 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 1,407,437 have received a booster or third shot.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 662,138 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 529,275, Hudson 471,834, Morris 357,234, Passaic 324,780, Sussex 86,404, and Warren 56,127.
As of Dec. 3, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 1,096,450 with 3,966 total new PCR cases. There were 1,104 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 168,368. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,264,818.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 14 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 25,607. The state listed probable deaths at 2,827, bringing the overall total to 28,434. State officials noted eight deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Dec. 3, Bergen had a total of 311 new confirmed cases and 75 new probable cases, Essex 303 new cases and 39 new probable case, Hudson 225 new cases and 24 new probable cases, Morris 267 new confirmed cases and 80 new probable cases, Passaic 300 new cases and 65 new probable cases, Sussex 100 new cases and 32 new probable cases, and Warren 83 new cases and eight new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,870, followed by Bergen at 2,710, Hudson with 2,185, Passaic at 1,835, Morris at 1,055, Sussex at 284, and Warren County at 237.
In regards to probable deaths reported Nov. 29, Bergen has 311, Essex has 310, Morris has 267, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 207, Sussex has 71 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,876,552 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Nov. 15, 54,260 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 1,160 COVID-related hospitalizations and 314 COVID-related deaths. All those are less than 1% in each category.
In the week of Nov. 8-14, breakthroughs accounted for 25.7% of all new cases (3,116 of 12,138), 0.4% of new hospilizations (16 of 602), and 1 of the 85 deaths.
As for the rate of transmission reported Dec. 3, it remained at 1.15 for the second day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested Nov. 27 was 9.5%; by region, the rate was 8.5% in the North, 10.9% in the Central region and 9.7% in the South.
The state reported 1,112 patients were hospitalized with all of the state’s 71 hospitals reporting. By region, there were 419 in the North, 384 in the Central and 309 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 208 are in intensive care units—surpassing 200 statewide for the first time since Oct. 26— and 93 on ventilators. A total of 143 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
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.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions as of Nov. 30, the state has tracked 217 school outbreaks and 1,172 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 23 outbreaks and 87 cases from the week previous.
Outbreaks are defined as three or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.
For North Jersey in the new report, Passaic County has eight confirmed outbreak with 102 cases, Bergen County has 22 confirmed outbreak with 93 cases, Morris County has 13 confirmed outbreaks with 74 cases, Sussex has 17 confirmed outbreak with 66 cases, Essex County has nine confirmed outbreak with 38 cases and Hudson County has 10 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases. No outbreaks were reported in Warren County.
The vaccination rate for teachers in the Garden State is 85.3% overall. In North Jersey counties, Bergen is tops at 90.5%, followed by Passaic at 88.1%, Warren at 87.4%, Morris at 87.3%, Sussex at 84.9%, Essex at 81.8%, and Hudson at 79.1%, tied for lowest in the state.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 132 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 1,236 of the cases, broken down between 651 residents and 585 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,878 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 34,269 residents and 23,463 staff, for a total of 57,732.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,702 on Dec. 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,024 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.