In a briefing Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy extended the state’s public health emergency declaration for an additional 30 days, saying the extension allows vaccination efforts to continue apace.
“The Department of Health’s ability to regulate the distribution of the vaccine is linked to the declaration of a public health emergency,” Murphy said at the briefing. “Failing to extend the public health emergency risks compromising the department’s ability to prioritize high risk individuals, promote adequate staffing and vaccination sites, and ensure that residents are receiving the correct second dose of their vaccine, among other important steps.”
As of Wednesday morning, Murphy said, almost 1.5 million doses had been administered. Of that, he said, just over 1 million New Jersey residents have received at least their first dose. According to Murphy, more than 412,000 New Jersey residents have also received their second doses and are now fully vaccinated.
“Each day these numbers move upward by several tens of thousands,” Murphy said. “It is consistent progress. I know there remain, we know there remain, many, many residents who want to be included in these numbers but aren’t yet because of the scarcity of appointments due to the scarcity of vaccines.”
Murphy said there were 4,495 new positive test results from the day before. He also reported another 92 deaths to add to the state’s total of more than 20,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19. He said another 2,200 deaths were likely caused by the virus.
“When you add that up, it’s a staggering 22,632 losses of life.”
Murphy was joined by former state epidemiologist and current COVID-19 Response Medical Advisor, Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, along with the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judith Persichilli.
Persichilli said the department’s Public Health and Environmental Lab is sequencing all virus variants and that the lab has increased its testing capacity. Persichill said the lab looks for virus strains with atypical transmission patterns, and sends that information to the CDC.
Bresnitz said the lab has completed 107 sequences to date with another 64 pending this week. Since November, the lab has sent 111 specimens to the CDC, or approximately 16 per week, Bresnitz said.
Bresnitz also stressed the importance of wearing at least one “good” mask and adding a second mask for an additional layer of protection.