Gov. Phil Murphy was proud to announce Monday that the state has given more than 100,000 vaccination shots — and that some people got their second shot earlier in the day.
But he still didn’t have a strong answer for why New Jersey — like almost every other state — has been slow in the distribution of the vaccine. As of Monday, they state has more than 400,000 doses, meaning approximately 75% of them have not been administered.
“We are in the process of setting up hundreds of these (vaccination) locations. Some of them are going to be mega sites, and we have to schedule,” Murphy said at his COVID-19 briefing. “Remember, you need health care workers to do this. I’m not qualified to deliver these vaccines.”
Murphy and Commissioner of the Department of Health Judith Persichilli visited University Hospital in Newark to see the first New Jerseyans receive their second dosage of the Pfizer vaccine, making them the first residents to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
In terms of more specific questions regarding the vaccine and how and when residents will be able to receive their doses, Murphy has a solution in the form of an online information page.
“Every day, our vaccine program continues to make progress,” he said. “We have set up a page dedicated solely to our vaccine efforts on our COVID-19 information hub. You’ll be able to get answers to many questions about the COVID vaccines, and we will also use that page as a registration portal to help sign up to make your appointment to get vaccinated when it’s your turn to roll up your sleeve.”
Additionally, the governor said this page can show how vaccines work, information on vaccine trials to address safety concerns, vaccination timelines and priority groups. Residents can find all this information at covid19.nj.gov/vaccine.
Other notes from Monday’s COVID-19 briefing:
Murphy made a distinction for the first time when reporting the new case numbers Monday. He divided the numbers into two separate groups: cases received from PCR tests and those received from antigen tests. For the former, there are 2,292 new cases Monday, for a total of 494,317 positives. For the latter, there are 822 new positives, for a cumulative total of 50,838.
In hospitals across the state yesterday, 295 COVID patients were discharged, while 395 others were admitted, Additionally, there were 60 in-hospital deaths reported, but they are still awaiting lab confirmation, so they are not a part of the normal death count.
Monday, the state is reporting 38 newly confirmed deaths, putting the cumulative total at 17,223 deaths from COVID-related complications. In total, there have been an additional 2,021 probable deaths.
Other hospital numbers:
- In hospital: 3,633 (3,438 confirmed, 195 awaiting confirmation);
- In ICU: 664;
- On ventilators: 476;
- Rate of transmission: 92;
- Positivity rate: 22% (from Dec. 31).
Most school districts reopened from a holiday break Monday. Currently, 77 schools are offering all in-person instruction, 339 are all-remote, 348 have a hybrid of the two and 47 others are using some combination of all three options.
The governor praised the efforts of the schools.
“Our students and educators, for the most part, are getting back to school,” Murphy said. “I wish students back today a terrific second half of the school year, and, to all our extraordinary educators, school officials and parents, I send the same to you and thank you for all that you are doing day-in and day-out to keep our kids learning in the best and safest possible environment.”
In terms of the digital divide, Murphy’s administration has also made progress.
“As of our Dec. 21 report, 94% of the initial, identified digital divide from the summer has been bridged,” Murphy said. “We should be receiving the latest numbers later today and we will report them to you on Wednesday.”
It has been a little over two months since New Jerseyans voted in a nearly three-fourths majority to legalize adult-use cannabis, and many residents are wondering what has taken so long for the state to put legislation together. With these concerns in mind, Murphy provided an update on the status of legal marijuana in New Jersey.
“I want to say three things unequivocally,” Murphy said. “(Cannabis) is not legal, we did not miss a window and we are having very constructive engagement, as we have had from the get-go, with legislative leadership.”
Technically, as of Jan. 1, cannabis is legal in New Jersey, but there are still many key factors yet to be established — such as how much an adult can possess or where they can get it legally. Additionally, lawmakers passed bills last month decriminalizing cannabis and establishing guidelines for commercial operations. However, the governor left both of these bills unsigned, citing concerns about the penalties for juveniles who are possessing cannabis.
But, until legislation is put on the books, police have the legal right to arrest someone for marijuana possession. With the future of legislation still murky, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has directed local courts to seek adjournment of any pending court cases involving possession of cannabis. This request will last until Jan. 25.
Murphy on the passing of former Monroe Mayor Gerald Tamburro:
“He was a dear friend, but, more importantly, he was a great mayor and a great man. He was an exemplary servant who worked tirelessly to protect Monroe’s taxpayers and their quality of life. He was a U.S. Army Reserve veteran, and we salute his service to this nation as well. It’s our time to tell our stories about Gerry Tamburro. Expectedly, they are all of a kind friend and a fiery community advocate who gave his golden years to the community he loved.”