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Trenton Republican Municipal Chair Jennifer Williams

Opinion: New Jersey after coronavirus

By Jennifer Williams, March 23 2020 9:09 am


We are all in this together. That is the message that President Trump, Governor Murphy, other leaders and many of us are repeating as a daily mantra. The mission we all share to defeat this terrible Coronavirus (Covid-19) is one that we obviously cannot fail at and must learn from for the future.

How long we will be needing to hunker down, socially distance from each other and limit our exposure to the outside world – is not something we know or will know soon. Spending time with family, catching up on things around our homes or using online education for our kids and ourselves is at least some bit of good coming from this shared pandemic experience. God willing, we will flatten the curve of this viral onslaught and defeat this unseen threat to humans everywhere.

However, the horrendous job losses to come and the incredibly uncertain futures many of us will face will certainly not be on the credit side of the ledger. One day in the future – we will step back into the light and into a safer, more secure world that is free from the dangers of this novel virus. Before this happens, though, we must begin getting our heads around something that may now seem obvious but may still require the force of will – requiring our American pharmaceutical, hospital supply and medical device companies to move much of their pandemic-necessary production back to New Jersey and within the continental United States.

In particular, New Jersey needs to be part of the vanguard of returning the production of pharmaceuticals, hospital supplies, medical supplies and the manufacturing of protective gear for medical providers back to the United States.  The Garden State is already home to fourteen of the twenty largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and the State of New Jersey already offers a research and development tax credit for 100% of a company’s corporate tax liability. Why can’t do even more to bring the actual production back home?

While the health and welfare of New Jerseyans is paramount, the issue of off-shoring so much manufacturing of products Americans need during a pandemic – such as medications, equipment and even the protective masks, scrubs and gloves – must be dealt with head on. The answers to this problem should be obvious as we already know what to do and how to make it happen. For many decades, New Jersey was a leader and the place most well-known as the home of America’s pharmaceutical industry. Then, as the new millennium began, the pharmaceutical industry began a slow process of leaving our state (and Puerto Rico) for other areas of the world.

The manufacturing of these incredibly important and life-saving products and the jobs created by their production went overseas and now we are paying the price. The unavailability of N95-rated masks has hampered our heroic medical personnel here as they fight this pandemic. Stories of hospital supply and testing shortages are rampant and the White House has announced that the Federal Government will begin employing the Defense Production Act of 1950 to increase the production of pandemic-necessary medical devices and resources such as respirators, N95 masks and other equipment. President Trump’s action is a necessary one and is emblematic of our government’s decades-long National Defense Strategy to ensure our nations’ defense capabilities in a time of war and now, a viral threat to life itself.  New Jersey must step up and play a very important part in these future defense efforts in order to help our state and our country.

Going forward, New Jersey’s leaders (and especially our bipartisan Congressional delegation) should put immense pressure on the Federal Government to create legislation requiring that a significant percentage of pharmaceutical, hospital supply and medical devices be manufactured within the continental United States and the territory of Puerto Rico.  Such legislation will prepare our country and our state much better for the next pandemic to come.

We must take our experience of this Coronavirus pandemic and use it to create positive action to help ourselves and future generations. Let’s bring our pharmaceutical, medical device and hospital supply plants and factories back home to New Jersey. We must re-create the pharmaceutical corridor here in the Garden State and return to our status as the “World’s Medicine Cabinet” – albeit with strong environmental and medical safeguards. If we do so, we will likely save many lives during this pandemic and any coming in the future.

We, the citizens of New Jersey, must make sure our leaders listen and if they don’t listen, we will need to find the leaders who will make it happen.

Jennifer Williams is a former New Jersey General Assembly candidate in LD15 and holds a MBA from Tulane University.

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