Nearly three years after Covid first arrived in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy today announced that an independent review of the state’s response to the pandemic will soon begin, at last fulfilling a promise Murphy has made since the early days of the pandemic.
The review, which is expected to be released in late 2023, will examine the state’s initial preparedness for a public health crisis, review the state’s handling of the pandemic when it did arrive, and recommend future actions the state can take to prepare for future crises.
“Throughout the pandemic, my responsibility as governor demanded that I make every decision based on the available data, facts, and science in order to preserve the health and safety of all 9.3 million residents, regardless of the politics,” Murphy said in a statement announcing the review. “My responsibility as governor also demands a full and comprehensive review of how the state was prepared for and responded to the pandemic, so that we can take the steps to better prepare future administrations for a public health crisis.”
Notably, according to Murphy’s announcement, the review will focus in part on the state’s actions “with respect to vulnerable residents, including members of congregate care settings,” an area of pandemic response for which the Murphy administration has drawn intense criticism.
The review will be led by former Assistant Attorney General Paul Zoubek and will be conducted by two outside firms, Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads and the Boston Consulting Group. Murphy said that he believes Zoubek, who served under Republican Govs. Christine Todd Whitman and Donald DiFrancesco, will serve admirably in the role.
“As a widely respected, apolitical, and experienced state and federal prosecutor, Paul Zoubek is exactly the right person to lead this review, and has the experience in emergency management and government investigations that makes him perfectly suited for this task,” the governor said.
Murphy first proposed an eventual independent review in April 2020, when the pandemic was still in its first vicious wave. In the years following that initial promise, however, Murphy never laid out a clear timeline for such a review, in part because new waves of Covid continued arriving in the state.