Smokers over teachers? Now teachers are pushing back on Murphy

On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy pushed back against the idea that smokers were ahead of teachers in the line to get the COVID-19 vaccine — saying it was done for a “quick headline” or a “cheap shot.”

Murphy said the state is prioritizing the vaccination of the most vulnerable. (Which means smokers are, in fact, ahead of teachers in line.)

On Monday, teacher Kimberly Dickstein Hughes pushed back, tweeting:

“Every school district should be demanding that the COVID-19 vaccine should be expedited for educators. (The state and Gov. Murphy) should be making their No. 1-rated schools their No. 1 priority. (The NJEA) feels like we aren’t getting clear information.”

Dickstein Hughes is the current state Teacher of the Year. She works in Haddonfield.

Dickstein Hughes tweeted her comments as a retweet to a letter sent from Joan Mast, the superintendent of schools in Scotch Plains-Fanwood, to Murphy. In the letter, Mast also said teachers should be prioritized and indicated the teachers do not feel they are a priority.

Regardless of the priority, the bigger issue may be the amount of vaccine available.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Monday the state is not expecting an increase in doses from the federal government — it would like close to 500,000 per week, but only is scheduled to get closer to 100,000.

It remains to be seen how much the change in presidential administration will impact distribution.

As of Sunday evening, the state had administered 366,010 doses — with 40,449 of them being a second shot.

Other notes from Monday:

Health numbers

The state announced an additional 3,511 positive COVID-19 cases Monday, as well as 23 additional lab-confirmed fatalities. The rate of transmission remained over the 1.0 benchmark, at 1.12.

There were 3,432 people in the hospital, 632 of which were in intensive care — and 426 of those patients were on ventilators.

Final word

There were numerous references to quotations from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from elected officials on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Here is one from Murphy:

“‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’ As we battle this pandemic, recover from the violence at our Capitol and reckon with racial injustice, may his words and spirit guide us.”