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Commissioner of Health Judy Persichilli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Regular Covid briefings to end next Friday

Governor announces sunset after two straight years of press conferences

By Joey Fox, February 23 2022 3:54 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy announced today that his administration’s regular Covid briefings will come to an end next Friday, March 4, two years after the first case of Covid was recorded in New Jersey.

“With the Omicron tsunami continuing to swiftly recede; with the case numbers continuing to fall and our hospital metrics continuing to improve; with vaccination numbers among the highest in the nation and still climbing; and with the last major statewide masking requirement, the one in our schools, set to be lifted in 11 days, we believe now is the time to end these briefings,” Murphy said.

Beginning on March 9, 2020, Murphy held a briefing at least once every week – and, in the earliest months of the pandemic, usually every day – providing updates on the pandemic and guidance on masking, distancing, vaccination, and other mitigation efforts. 

The briefings consistently featured Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli and Superintendent of the State Police Patrick Callahan, who often conveyed information on upcoming weather situations and natural disasters, and other members of the Murphy administration would sometimes appear depending on the needs of the day.

In addition to Murphy’s and Persichilli’s own Covid reports, the briefings also allowed members of the press to ask questions of the governor and his administration, both on Covid-related issues and on other topics.

The governor held a total of more than 250 briefings, which he said was more than any other governor, but he insisted that the time for such constant updates on the pandemic has passed.

“While we have certainly understood the importance of these briefings to educating and updating residents, we also fully understand the need to move forward beyond the pandemic,” Murphy said. “As we move into our new normal and transition from a pandemic stance to an endemic one, there is no longer the need for us to gather here at a set time every week.”

Murphy added, however, that if the pandemic were to worsen drastically once again, as it did in December with the Omicron variant, he would consider reconvening for more briefings.

“What would cause us to get back at this table? I would think a meaningful, material deterioration in the data that we track to make the important decisions for public health,” he said. “It would need to be not just a slight drift one way or the other, but a material and meaningful deterioration.”

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