At long last, the pandemic may officially be coming to an end.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday announced that he intended to end the state of emergency that New Jersey has been under since March 2020 — but not before renewing the monthly declaration one last time, taking his emergency powers into mid-June.

Murphy said that his office was crafting legislation with the state Senate president and Assembly speaker in order to ensure his administration "retains necessary tools to manage the ongoing threat to public health, as well as recovery and vaccination efforts."

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Murphy's announcement came after stating that New Jersey would not immediately follow CDC guidance to lift mask mandates on indoor public places, explaining that it is too difficult to tell who has been vaccinated and that a rush to lift the mandate could lead to a rise in infections.

In recent months, New Jersey's rate of infection has dropped dramatically as hospitalizations and deaths have also diminished. Murphy has been facing increasing pressure from businesses leaders and Republican lawmakers in the minority to quicken the state's pace in lifting restrictions on gatherings and on bars and restaurants.

Public health officials believe more than 25,800 residents of the state have died as a result of COVID-19.

On Thursday, the state's hospitals had 950 COVID-19, the lowest since October and the start of the pandemic's second wave through the state.

Murphy said the latest emergency declaration would be allowed to expire if the Legislature passes an appropriate law by next month.

“This marks real progress as we work to emerge from the worst public health crisis of our lifetime,” Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said in a joint statement with Murphy. “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."

“I am very encouraged by the data we are seeing and I look forward to a return to normalcy for the State of New Jersey and our over nine million residents,” Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said in the same statement.

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