Gov. Phil Murphy is extending the state’s public health emergency for the 14th consecutive month as the state ramps up its vaccine capabilities and grapples with the presence of several highly infectious COVID-19 variants.
The order, Murphy said, has to be renewed every 30 days in order to keep in place the litany of public health restrictions and reallocate public health resources toward the pandemic.
A state of emergency has been in place for the entirety of the pandemic.
In 2020, he extended the public health emergency on April 7, May 6, June 4, July 2, Aug. 1 and 27, Sept. 25, Oct. 24, Nov. 22 and Dec. 21. Then this year, he extended it on Jan. 19, Feb. 17 and March 17.
“Our vaccination program is expanding vigorously and quickly, but COVID-19 remains a threat to New Jerseyans,” the governor said in an April 15 evening statement. “As we move to extend vaccine eligibility to all residents of our state, the need for all available resources could not be more important.”
The vaccines are a vital component of permanently rolling back restrictions on businesses, travel and public gatherings, which have been in place this past year to keep the spread of the virus at bay.
The current goal is to fully vaccinate 4.7 million New Jersey adults by June 30, a timeline Murphy said is still feasible despite an abrupt pause this week on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
As of April 15, the state fully vaccinated 2.3 million New Jerseyans. Eligibility expands on April 19 to everyone at least 16 years old.
Murphy first enacted the public health emergency on March 9 last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold across the state. Since then, the governor practically shut the state down and then slowly reopened it, by allowing businesses, schools and public gatherings to take place with mask requirements and reduced capacities.
State health officials have been racing to vaccinate New Jerseyans as they try to prevent the spread of these new COVID-19 variants, a phenomenon known as herd immunity.
This surge in more contagious strands, especially one first detected in the United Kingdom, means the existing COVID-19 wave could last through mid-April and then gradually coast down over the summer. Or in a worst-case scenario, hospitalizations and daily cases would peak from May to June, meaning a “long, hot summer” for the state, Murphy warned.
Neither the worst nor moderate-case projections for the second wave this winter panned out. And the spread has in the past few days showed signs of slowing down.