COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout, Post-Pandemic Economy Highlight Gov. Murphy’s ‘State of the State’ Address

By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor

TRENTON, N.J. — The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the lives of nearly every American for the past 10 months, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it was the major overarching theme of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s “State of the State” address.

Even the setting of Gov. Murphy’s address to the state was impacted by the pandemic, as he delivered the speech in an empty Trenton theater instead of its usual setting — a jam-packed statehouse. The Governor’s 35-minute address to the state was recorded on Sunday before being released to the public on Tuesday.

Gov. Murphy reiterated New Jersey’s desire to vaccinate any adult who’s willing to get the vaccine in order to help curb the pandemic that began last March.

“We all sense the promise that comes from the arrival of approved, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” he said. “Through the tremendous work of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli and her team of medical and scientific experts, and despite many obstacles, we have in place a plan to vaccinate every willing New Jersey adult resident — and hundreds of thousands have already rolled up their sleeves. Six vaccine mega-sites are opening across the state, and vaccinations will be available in hundreds more places statewide. We have already streamlined the vaccination process to enhance efficiency and ensure that if you choose to receive your first vaccine dose, you’ll get the proper follow-up shot.”

At the time of publication, New Jersey reported a total of more than 264,000 vaccine doses administered on its COVID-19 dashboard. The state has fully vaccinated 28,045 people who have received both required doses of Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. On Wednesday morning, Gov. Murphy said that the state will allow all adults aged 65 or older to be vaccinated, per guidelines from the federal government.

As of Wednesday morning, New Jersey has received 654,900 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. Distribution of the vaccine has been slower than expected throughout most of the United States, but some expect that to change when President-Elect Joe Biden takes office as the United States’ 46th President next week.

One of Gov. Murphy’s trademark catchphrases throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been “public health creates economic health,” and he once again said that during his State of the State address.

“Our commitment to this ideal [public health creates economic health] is unwavering,” Gov. Murphy said. “The pandemic has slammed small businesses across America, so, our economic focus has been squarely where it should be — on helping our hard-hit small businesses and encouraging new ones to grow. We have been consistent in our decisions, and have protected businesses — especially restaurants — from the revolving door of openings and closings that have occurred across America. … Our small business community is the backbone not only of our local economies, but of our state’s economy. These are the shops and restaurants that turn a town into a community.”

The Governor boasted about the fact that New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority supporting approximately 55,000 small businesses with “truly lifesaving” grants and loans.

On a non-pandemic related note, Gov. Murphy touched on the legalization of recreational marijuana during his address. In November, New Jerseyans voted “yes” on a referendum to legalize the drug, but lawmakers haven’t been able to reach an agreement to officially legalize marijuana in the state yet. At this time, people can still be arrested and charged with a crime for marijuana-related incidents.

Legalizing recreational marijuana has been a long-standing goal of the Murphy administration, and the Governor provided an update on the legalization process.

“Together, with the Legislature, we are on the verge of passing an innovative and groundbreaking set of laws to reform our historically unjust approach to marijuana and cannabis,” Gov. Murphy said. “Two months ago, you voted overwhelmingly to legalize adult-use marijuana, and begin the process of ending the racial imbalance that disproportionately penalizes Black and brown people arrested for marijuana offenses. We’re setting up a cannabis industry that will promote the growth of new small businesses, many of which will be owned by women, minorities, and veterans.”

You can watch Gov. Murphy’s full address to the state below.

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