Republican Assemblymen Christopher DePhillips (R-40) and Brian Bergen (R-25) are pushing Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration to undo the last remaining COVID-19 protocols.
Gov. Phil Murphy said he would be ending his weekly COVID-19 briefings on March 4 and the school mask mandate March 7, but the public health emergency order would remain intact.
Meanwhile, the statehouse’s complex commission is ending eight of nine COVID-19 protocols Feb. 25, but will maintain a mask mandate for all people who enter the facility.
End to Emergency Power
The public health emergency order is set to expire March 12, but could be renewed for 30 days under the Emergency Health Powers Act. Murphy said as his weekly briefing Feb. 23 that there was no “new news” regarding if he would renew the order.
The non-answer was not good enough for DePhillips.
“I don’t think anyone can point to any positives that come from continuing the public health emergency. It’s over,” said the former Wyckoff mayor.
End of Transparency
DePhillips slammed the Governor for the decision to end the briefings, arguing he was “ending transparency” by ceasing the briefings.
“If he truly wanted to return to normal as he says he would stop his rule by executive order. His COVID briefings gave press the opportunity to question his mandates and motives,” he said.
While DePhillips railed against Murphy’s decisions, his fellow Assemblyman was pushing for an end of masks in their Trenton workplace.
“Clinging to the Masking Theater”
On Feb. 22, the State Capitol Joint Management Commission dropped all COVID-19 mitigation measures, save the mask mandate. For entry, all entering the statehouse must continue to wear a cloth face mask, or they will be denied entry.
Bergen said he was “disappointed they are clinging to the masking theater” despite being pleased by dropping the other eight rules.
He even joked about missing Speaker Craig Coughlin’s smile.
“I firmly believe masking should not be mandated, but left up to the individual,” Bergen added. “Besides, we’ve been safely unmasked in restaurants, shopping malls, fitness centers, and very soon, schools. What makes the statehouse particularly unsafe still?”
The cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey as of Feb. 24 was 1,869,932 with 1,140 total new PCR cases. There were 367 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 294,436. The total number of individual cases for the state is 2,164,368.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 38 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 29,897. The state listed probable deaths at 2,960, bringing the overall total to 32,947. State officials noted 11 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 25, Bergen had a total of 131 new confirmed cases and 32 new probable cases, Essex 112 new cases and 11 new probable case, Hudson 90 new cases and 13 new probable cases, Morris 49 new confirmed cases and 37 new probable cases, Passaic 57 new cases and 11 new probable cases, Sussex 13 new cases and nine new probable cases, and Warren 11 new cases and six new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 3,251, followed by Bergen at 3,079, Hudson with 2,472, Passaic at 2,111, Morris at 1,218, Sussex at 374, and Warren County at 308.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 22, Bergen has 321, Essex has 311, Morris has 294, Hudson has 221, Passaic has 199, Sussex has 88 and Warren has 27.
As for the rate of transmission reported Feb. 25, it increased to 0.72 from 0.71 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Feb. 20 was 5.2%; by region, the rate was 4.8% in the North, 5.2% in the Central region and 6.3% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 865 patients hospitalized as all but one of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Feb. 25—the first time under 900 since Nov. 27, 2021. By region, there were 296 in the North, 313 in the Central and 256 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 151 are in intensive care units and 98 on ventilators. A total of 155 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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 437 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 24,013 of the cases, broken down between 11,221 residents and 12,792 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,364 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 46,859 residents and 37,925 staff, for a total of 84,781.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 9,252 on Feb. 25. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,495 residents deaths and 149 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,621,379 in-state, plus an additional 560,724 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,182,103 as of Feb. 25.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,488,366 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 224,033 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,712,399. With just under 8.5 million eligible in New Jersey to be vaccinated, 77% are fully vaccinated and 91% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,561,197 for Pfizer and 1,315,661 for Moderna. A total of 63,993 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,940,851 have received a booster or third shot—51% of the 5.7 million of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 711,391 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 578,405, Hudson 517,771, Morris 381,561, Passaic 351,939, Sussex 91,445, and Warren 59,503.
According to the state dashboard with 65.7% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 2,335 and new staff cases 553 in the last week as of Feb. 13. Cumulatively, 128,711 cases have been reported— 100,909 students and 27,802 staffers.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Feb. 22, the state has tracked 507 school outbreaks and 3,450 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up four outbreaks and 17 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, Bergen County has 58 confirmed outbreaks with 331 cases, Morris County has 40 confirmed outbreaks with 246 cases, Essex County has 33 confirmed outbreaks with 232 cases, Passaic County has 22 confirmed outbreaks with 188 cases, Sussex has 34 confirmed outbreaks with 177 cases, Hudson County has 19 confirmed outbreaks with 92 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases.