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May 16, 2021

New Jersey seeks to end COVID-19 public health emergency in June

Most of the state's coronavirus pandemic restrictions are set to expire this Wednesday

Government Coronavirus
NJ COVID-19 public health emergency HughE Dillon/For PhillyVoice

New Jersey's COVID-19 public health emergency was enacted last March at the start of the pandemic

New Jersey appears ready to end its coronavirus public health emergency next month as the state continues to recover and reopen amid the pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic leadership in the state legislature said Friday that they are working on legislation that would do away with New Jersey's COVID-19 public health emergency while also providing the state with the necessary resources to manage its coronavirus vaccination and recovery efforts. If legislation is enacted, the public health emergency will expire in June.

Murphy and state lawmakers cited New Jersey's improved public health metrics for moving forward with ending the state's COVID-19 public health emergency.

New Jersey reported 987 new COVID-19 infections Saturday, a nearly 78% decline since early April. The state recorded 865 COVID-19 hospitalizations Saturday, a 60% drop since early April. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations dipped below 1,000 this past Thursday for the first time in six months.

The state is about 80% of the way towards its goal of having 4.7 million adults fully vaccinated by the end of June. Over 8.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, and more than 3.8 million residents are fully vaccinated, according to the state.

“After an extremely difficult year, we are seeing the results of our mitigation efforts and our successful vaccination program,” Murphy said. “In order to continue on the path to normalcy, we need all available resources to continue our progress in vaccinating New Jerseyans and finally beating back this pandemic. By working together, we are confident that we can move to the next phase of our recovery effort."

“This marks real progress as we work to emerge from the worst public health crisis of our lifetime,” Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem) said. “It’s the beginning of the end of a crisis that has tragically claimed the lives of an unimaginable number of New Jerseyans and impacted the lives and livelihoods of nearly everyone. 

"The worst is behind us, and now is the time to move forward to restore the quality of life for the people of New Jersey. The new normal won’t be normal for some time. We have to make the best use of our resources, our abilities and our determination to address the needs of our citizens.” 

New Jersey's COVID-19 public health emergency was put in place last March at the onset of the pandemic. Under the Emergency Health Powers Act, Murphy has been required every 30 days to extend the public health emergency to prevent it from expiring.

Most of the state's COVID-19 restrictions will expire this Wednesday.

New Jersey's face mask mandate in public indoor spaces is still in effect for fully vaccinated residents, Murphy said Friday.

But fully vaccinated residents will no longer need to wear face masks outdoors and at small private gatherings, such as at their homes with family and friends.

Unvaccinated residents should still wear masks in crowded outdoor settings where social distancing isn't possible, Murphy said. Businesses still have the right to implement their own mask guidance.

The state hopes to lift its indoor mask mandate in public settings in the coming weeks, Murphy said.

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