More than half a year into the state’s outbreak, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday he’s extending the public-health emergency he declared in New Jersey because of the coronavirus pandemic by another 30 days.
This is the seventh time Murphy has extended the emergency, which gives him the power to take executive action to combat COVID-19′s spread. The emergency declaration expires after 30 days if the governor doesn’t extend it.
New Jersey, an early coronavirus hotspot, has seen its outbreak slow significantly in recent months, and Murphy has already eased numerous business closings and other restrictions he installed in March. Most recently, he allowed gyms, movie theaters, and indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity.
But Murphy said Friday that the state is “not out of the woods yet” and extending the order again “means that we continue to be vigilant and prepared, and ready to act should there be a new outbreak.”
The move doesn’t reverse any of the gradual reopening steps the state has taken, though it does extend all of the governor’s executive orders still in place, such a business capacities, mask orders, and more.
Murphy said it also “continues the authority” of the state Department of Health to “coordinate our health system’s response to this emergency.”
“We can’t do a lot of what we do without that declaration,” he said during his latest coronavirus briefing in Trenton.
Murphy declared both a state of emergency and a public-health emergency on March 9 as COVID-19 was beginning to spread in the Garden State, which is now home to the second-most deaths and eighth-most cases in the U.S.
While the state of emergency is indefinite, Murphy previously extended the public-health emergency for April, May, June, July, August, and now September. This new extension will remain in place through late September.
A state of emergency gives state authorities certain executive powers and safeguards to respond to a crisis. It also allows the state to receive federal aid.
A public-health emergency allows the governor to take broad action to protect New Jersey under the Emergency Health Powers Act.
Murphy’s extension comes a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s leading infectious disease expert, told the governor during an interview Thursday that New Jersey is in “good shape” and can continue to reopen its schools and economy “gradually, prudently, and carefully” despite America facing a possible second wave of the virus.
After nearly seven months of restrictions, New Jersey has seen its daily numbers drop dramatically since April, when officials were routinely announcing hundreds of new deaths and thousands of new cases a day.
The state on Friday reported 7 more COVID-19 deaths and 612 cases. But Murphy stressed that the state announced about 1,200 new cases in the last two days alone.
“I hope folks are getting this,” the governor said. “We are not out of the woods yet.”
New Jersey has reported 202,100 COVID-19 cases out of more than 3.47 million tests administered in the nearly seven months since the outbreak here started in early March. That’s the eighth most cases among U.S. states.
The state of 9 million people has reported 16,097 deaths related to the virus — 14,306 lab-confirmed and 1,791 considered probable. That’s the second-most in the U.S. after New York. New Jersey has the nation’s highest COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 residents.