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

Persichilli, Murphy both hesitant to declare pandemic over

Department of Health building renamed for Persichilli, who led state’s Covid response

By Joey Fox, September 28 2022 4:25 pm

President Joe Biden said last week that “the pandemic is over,” but two of New Jersey’s top leaders on Covid – Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli – are both reluctant to agree with such a sweeping statement.

“We’re certainly going in the right direction,” Persichilli said today when asked about Biden’s declaration. “I still keep a very close eye on cases, and I’m still concerned that severe disease and hospitalizations and deaths are too high to say it’s over over.”

Persichilli added that the new Covid booster could bring about a more definitive end to the pandemic.

“I really want people to get that new vaccine,” she said. “If we can get enough people vaccinated with the bivalent vaccine, I think it will be over.”

Murphy, meanwhile, emphasized the transition from pandemic to endemic, envisioning a world where Covid may not be fully “over” but where it doesn’t take a massive toll on day-to-day life.

“That’s sort of the world I think we’re in,” Murphy said. “There are still 900-something people still in the hospital, folks are still dying, but this is on that road from pandemic to endemic.”

According to the state’s Covid dashboard, there were 1,773 new cases reported today, and eight confirmed deaths. Those are well down from previous peaks, such as the initial spring 2020 wave and the Omicron wave at the beginning of this year.

Today was a momentous day for Persichilli, who had the state Department of Health building dedicated in her name. She, alongside Murphy and State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan, was the face of the state’s pandemic response for nearly two years via the governor’s regular Covid briefings, and numerous speakers at a press conference today praised Persichilli’s leadership throughout the pandemic.

“You never expect to have something like this occur in your lifetime,” Persichilli said after the building’s new name was unveiled. “At the end of the day, through this pandemic, a lot of people deserved to have their names up there [on the DOH building]. And I hope this represents all of them.”

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