Gov. Phil Murphy held what may have been his final regular Covid briefing today, bringing to an end two years’ and more than 250 briefings’ worth of Covid-related news, updates, and directives.
“This anniversary [of the state’s first confirmed Covid case] is the right time for us to end these in-person briefings,” Murphy said. “As coronavirus moves from pandemic to endemic, and as we transition away from crisis management to a more normal way of life, it is the right time.”
“We persevered and fought, and persevered and fought some more,” he continued. “That’s why we’re at this point today. With all we have done to ensure the preparedness of our health care system, and with the advent of both vaccines and treatments, we are ready to move forward and not live our lives in fear.”
The state’s mask mandate in schools and daycares will end on Monday, as the governor announced last month, and the state’s public health emergency will also end on that day. However, Murphy said that the executive order ending the health emergency will still allow existing orders on vaccine distribution and health care coordination to remain in place; indoor mask mandates in state buildings and health care facilities will also continue, though Murphy said that may not be the case for long.
Three final Covid victims were honored by the governor, bringing the total to 646 over the last two years – still only a tiny fraction of the more than 30,000 New Jerseyans who have been lost to the virus. Murphy also noted that the briefings have highlighted 154 small businesses and featured 6,211 questions from the press.
“And by the way, some of the questions were even on topic,” the governor quipped.
Today’s briefing marked the potential end of an era for Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, whose role was thrust into the limelight at the beginning of the pandemic and has not receded in the two years since.
“We have made incredible progress since those dark days two years ago,” she said. “It is likely we will continue to have surges in Covid-19 activity, so it will be important that we all continue to be aware of the activity levels and adjust our behaviors accordingly.”
Persichilli ended her presentation with a refrain she has repeated at nearly every Covid briefing since vaccines became available last spring.
“So now, lastly, please remember: continue to wash your hands frequently,” Persichilli said. “Practice respiratory hygiene. Physically distance. Stay home when you’re sick. And get vaccinated and boosted to protect yourselves, your families, your friends, and our children. Thank you.”