Murphy reinstates New Jersey’s public health emergency

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy has reinstated New Jersey’s public health emergency, saying an uptick in COVID cases made the action necessary.

A leading Republican, however, says the move is a step in the wrong direction.

The move comes a day after state lawmakers declined to proceed with SCR165/ACR223 to extend the governor’s emergency powers.

Executive Order No. 280 declares the emergency in all 21 counties and allows state agencies to use state resources to help address COVID cases. Executive Order No. 281 continues several previous orders and allows others to remain in effect, extending departments’ actions in response to the pandemic.

“COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our State and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the Omicron variant,” Murphy, a Democrat, said in an announcement. “While we hope to return to a state of normalcy as soon as possible, the step I am taking today is a commonsense measure that will protect the safety and well-being of all New Jersey residents while allowing state government to respond to the continuing threat that COVID-19 poses to our daily lives.”

State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, R-Boonton, said the emergency declaration is a step back for the state.

“While Governor Murphy always talks about moving New Jersey ‘forward,’ he’s taking a giant leap backward by reinstating a new public health emergency,” Bucco said in a statement. “Despite what the governor has said, his action was not taken ‘in consultation with the Legislature.’ His own party said they weren’t consulted, and neither were Republicans. In fact, the Legislature chose to not extend his emergency powers when given the opportunity yesterday.

“Governor Murphy’s decision both circumvents legislative oversight and breaks his deal with his own party’s leadership,” Bucco added. “We need to give people hope that life is returning to normal, not returning to one man’s rule by executive order.”

In a statement, Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said they would work to fight COVID. They did not criticize or defend the governor’s action.

“As the pandemic continues to result in record-high cases and hospitalization levels, we hope to work together to do all we can to fight the spread of COVID-19,” the lawmakers said. “We will consider every option available to protect our communities and support our first responders, frontline workers, and public services.”

During a Monday press briefing, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said of the roughly 6,000 people hospitalized with COVID, 2,963 are in the hospital with a principal diagnosis of COVID. About 32% of those hospitalized are fully vaccinated, with the remaining 68% either partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.

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