(The Center Square) – New Jersey state lawmakers on Thursday passed legislation to take steps to end the COVID-19 public health emergency in place since March 2020.
The governor plans to sign the measure, A-5820/S-3866, on Friday.
“Ending New Jersey’s COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is one of the most significant steps we have taken in our recovery efforts to date,” Gov. Phil Murphy; Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland; and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said in a joint statement. “With our state’s public health metrics continuing to trend decisively in the right direction, we are confident that now is the right time to take this action, particularly as the final limits on gatherings are lifted tomorrow.
“While we celebrate this milestone in our fight against COVID-19, we also acknowledge that the fight against this virus is not over,” the trio added. “This legislation ensures that the Administration has the tools and flexibility necessary to continue vaccination and testing efforts, ensure protections for vulnerable populations, and oversee and coordinate the health care system to address this ongoing threat.”
While Democrats supported the measure, Republicans blasted the process as rushed and argued the bill doesn’t go far enough to end the state’s pandemic restrictions.
“This bill would end the public health emergency in name only,” state Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Morris/Sussex/Warren, said in a statement. “It’s not fooling anyone, not us, and certainly not the public.
“This bill doesn’t do away with unnecessary mandates, including orders that continue to force our kids to wear masks when they face very little risk,” Oroho added. “We have thousands of parents saying it’s time to unmask our kids. In fact, 10,000 people have already signed our online petition saying just that.”
Last month, Murphy announced plans to end the public health emergency. Lawmakers were previously poised to consider a different bill, A-5777, but Coughlin postponed action on the measure shortly before lawmakers considered it, and lawmakers introduced A-5820/S-3866 on Tuesday.