Murphy Talks COVID-19 Numbers, Vaccine Distribution, Outdoor Dining

Gov. Phil Murphy today announced that over the past 24 hours, New Jersey has had 430 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s all time total number of cases to 200,988.

While the statewide transmission rate now sits at 1.15, Murphy said, “We’d like to get [this figure] below one, but it is about what we expected,” adding that the state will keep a close eye on the figure in the event that it continues to rise.

Overall, New Jersey has had a total of 14,291 death cases from COVID-19.

Additionally, Murphy said he was “really impressed” with the structure and thought processes going on behind the scenes in regards to the question of vaccine distribution in the state.

“We don’t yet know what it will look like or when it will come but that does not mean that the preparations and the groundwork is not being laid,” Murphy said.

Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli added that the department’s Communicable Disease Service and its internal vaccine team meet daily, receiving information from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“We are awaiting approvals, and when they do come, there will be identification of the priority populations, and at that point we will be prepared to allocate whatever doses we get appropriately,” Persichilli said.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan said, “This will be an evolving work in progress because there are a lot of assumptions as to what will be available early on versus what might be available subsequently.

“Recognizing that there might be limited amounts at the very beginning, we have to be very mindful of priority groups where we can really make a huge difference for the public health impact of those vaccines,” Tan said.

Outdoor Dining in Cold Weather?

When asked about the prospect of increasing indoor dining capacity with colder weather on the horizon, Murphy said that he doesn’t have a specific answer, stating that he “hopes it is sooner than later.”

“It would sure be nice if the federal government stepped up with another big ‘slug’,” he said. “A lot of that would go to the industries, especially small businesses and hospitality, who desperately need help.”

Murphy did acknowledge the challenges that restaurants will soon face with weighing whether to invest in outdoor heating, for example, or plexiglass barriers for indoor seating.

Budget Vote Tomorrow

In other news, the Senate and Assembly will vote on the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget tomorrow. The budget will take effect for the nine-month fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

“All in all, I am proud of the budget we have agreed upon,” Murphy said. “The budget will further our ongoing effort to restore fiscal responsibility and accountability, live up to our obligations, and ensure the strong surplus we need for the unknowns ahead.”

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