Governor Murphy Maintains Current Protocols Despite Potential COVID Spike

By: Ana Altchek, Follow South Jersey Intern

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. Photo credit: State of New Jersey.

SOUTH JERSEY – After recently releasing the mask mandate in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy and NJ Department of Health Commissioner, Judith Persichilli, released a statement on Thursday, March 17th to address the recent rise in COVID cases on a global scale.

Due to an increase in travel and ongoing international trade, Murphy stated in the announcement that the increase will most likely reach New Jersey at some point as well. In an effort to manage the risk, the state will continue to closely monitor virus activity especially in regards to its impact on the health care system. 

Despite this potential, Murphy remained consistent with the recent policy changes made a few weeks ago. In addition to ending the regular COVID briefings, Murphy lifted the mask mandate and removed the public health emergency that was enacted in the height of the omicron rise in January.

Since he removed these restrictions, infection rates throughout the state have continued to decrease. As of March 21st, there were 552 new cases reported in New Jersey, which represents the lowest number the state has seen since last summer. Due to the consistent downward trends, Murphy stated that there is no need to reinstate universal statewide mandated protective measures at this time.

The worldwide number of new cases fell to 1,533,309 on March 4th, marking a steady decrease from the omicron surge mid-January which brought in an all-time high of 3,375,720 daily new cases worldwide. Since then, the number just recently rose to 1,718,529. Although this doesn’t signify a major increase, these numbers still exceed anything the world experienced prior to December 2021. 

Additionally, this increase is mostly concentrated in Asia, Africa and Europe. Of those regions, South Korea, Vietnam, Germany, The Netherlands and France reported the highest numbers. As Russia continues to invade Ukraine and millions of civilians are displaced throughout Europe, the region may become more susceptible to increasing numbers of COVID transmission.

These numbers represent an eight percent increase from the week prior and only show a part of the picture since testing rates have decreased. During a Twitter live Q&A session a month ago, WHO representatives expressed concern about the reduced testing rate on a global scale, which posed a discrepancy between the number of COVID cases and the death rate. 

“In some countries there’s been a strange reporting,” Dr. Maria Vankerkhove, WHO epidemiologist, said at the meeting. “There’s potentially some good news in terms of declines but we have to look at these with caution because testing strategies have changed drastically in countries.”

Even though there remains a possibility that cases may rise to reflect the worldwide COVID trends, the global rise doesn’t pose an imminent threat at this time. Additionally, the omicron variant still seems to be the most mild form of the virus yet. As long as Americans continue to get vaccinated and boosted, it shouldn’t pose a high risk to most people. 

Murphy made a point to mention that the goal is not to eradicate the virus and bring the level to zero. After two years of life under COVID and the existing potential of it taking on new forms and variants, the government has an active objective to manage the spread and make sure the health care infrastructure maintains the capacity to handle these ebbs and flows. 

He also noted that New Jersey continues to be among the nation’s most-vaccinated states. As long as appropriate measures are in place and civilians stay alert for new restrictions, New Jersey is in a position of ease while maintaining cautionary vigilance for now. 

By moving to an endemic status, Gov. Murphy holds the expectation that residents will continue to look out for each other and follow through on their civic responsibility to get vaccinated, boostered, and monitor the media for important updates or changes. In addition to reading local news outlets, residents can monitor the state’s COVID-19 Activity Level (CALI) Report and CDC COVID Community Levels for awareness of local COVID-19 activity and CDC masking recommendations.

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