After two years, Murphy to end COVID pandemic briefings next week
TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy will end his regular coronavirus press conferences after one last briefing next week, in what he described as another step toward a new, post-pandemic normal.
“With the omicron tsunami continuing to swiftly recede, the case numbers continuing to fall and our hospital metrics continue to improve, with vaccination numbers among the highest in the nation and still climbing and with the last major statewide masking requirement, the one in our schools, set to be lifted in 11 days, we believe now is the time to end these briefings,” Murphy said.
The state is averaging just over 1,500 new positive COVID tests a day over the past week, including both PCR and antigen tests reported by laboratories, the least since mid-November. Totals are down by 95% since the omicron-fueled peak on Jan. 10.
Hospitalizations of patients with COVID dipped back under 1,000 last night for the first time since late November. The state has averaged 35 confirmed COVID-related deaths a day over the past week, down more than half in two weeks and far below the 130 deaths a day being recorded one month ago.
“That is not to say that we won’t continue to provide updates on numbers or that we won’t continue to bring you news. We’ll do both, but probably much more so online,” Murphy said. “However, should the need arise, we will not hesitate to reconvene here. And please, God, that need will not arise.”
The final briefing will be next Friday, March 4.
“That date not only marks the second anniversary of our first recorded case of COVID-19, but it will also mark after more than 250 in-person briefings and updates our final time together to bring you the latest on our pandemic response,” Murphy said.
“To be sure, I wasn’t the only governor to hold briefings to update residents on our progress against the virus, but I am proud to have held more than any other,” he said.
Murphy’s first COVID-related briefing was held March 2, 2020. The next seven were led by Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, while Murphy underwent and recovered from cancer surgery. Murphy returned to work March 13, 2020
Most governors ended their regular COVID-19 briefings months ago. Murphy had scaled them back gradually – from every day including weekends by phone initially, to three a week starting in July 2020, then two a week and finally to one.
“While we have certainly understood the importance of these briefings to educating and updating residents, we also fully understand the need to move forward beyond the pandemic,” Murphy said. “As we move into our new normal and transition from a pandemic stance to an endemic one, there is no longer the need for us to gather here at a set time every week.”
Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips, R-Bergen, said there is no reason to have a public health emergency in place if the governor if the pandemic has receded to the point that briefings aren’t needed. The current 30-day emergency declaration ends March 12.
“Instead of ending transparency by ceasing the public COVID briefings, he should end the public health emergency,” DePhillips said. “If he truly wanted to return to normal as he says he would stop his rule by executive order. His Covid briefings gave press the opportunity to question his mandates and motives. I don’t think anyone can point to any positives that come from continuing the public health emergency. It’s over.”