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January 12, 2022

New Jersey reinstates public health emergency amid omicron surge

Still, Gov. Murphy said new COVID-19 restrictions are not on the horizon despite rising infections and hospitalizations

Gov. Phil Murphy redeclared a public health emergency in New Jersey on Tuesday as part of an effort to curb the latest COVID-19 surge. 

The declaration will keep a handful of pandemic-related executive orders in place, including mask and vaccine requirements laid out by the state in recent months. They otherwise would have expired Wednesday.

The mask mandate in schools and child care settings will remain in effect. So will the vaccine requirements for health care workers, school teachers and staff, state employees and day care workers.

The declaration allows New Jersey to continue distributing COVID-19 vaccines, collecting coronavirus data and implementing recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Murphy. It also authorizes the state to respond with additional resources to help health care systems and communities that have been impacted by the influx of infections. 

The action will not result in additional restrictions in the near future, Murphy said.

"COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our state and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the omicron variant," Murphy said. "While we hope to return to a state of normalcy as soon as possible, the step I am taking today is a commonsense measure that will protect the safety and well-being of all New Jersey residents while allowing state government to respond to the continuing threat that COVID-19 poses to our daily lives."

Under the Emergency Health Powers Act, the public health emergency will expire in 30 days if Murphy does not renew it. New Jersey's COVID-19 metrics will be reevaluated at that time to determine if an extension is necessary, Murphy said.

The state's original COVID-19 public health emergency took effect in March 2020. It was lifted last June as most restrictions were eased. COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations had plummeted and vaccinations continued to rise.

Despite the expiration, several pandemic-related measures were permitted to remain in place unless modified or rescinded by the governor.

The state also was permitted to continue issuing orders related to COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts, CDC recommendations, local health departments coordination and other recovery aspects. This authority, provided under the Emergency Health Powers Act, was to remain in effect until this month, when the state legislature would have to sign off on a 90-day extension.

The state is averaging nearly 35,000 new COVID-19 infections per day, which is more than at any other point during the pandemic, Murphy said. More than 34% of COVID-19 tests administered over the past week have come back positive, the state's dashboard shows. 

More than 10,000 New Jersey residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 over the past two weeks, which is the most since April 2020. The numbers of patients in ICU and on ventilators has roughly doubled since Christmas, according to Murphy.

More than 400 people have died of COVID-19 over the last week, the highest total in about a year. 

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