In a week that saw New Jersey COVID-19 cases climb past the half-million mark – meaning about one in 20 New Jerseyans has tested positive for the virus – Gov. Phil Murphy announced that starting tomorrow, those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination will now include sworn police officers and firefighters who live, work or study in New Jersey.
“These are folks that have been just as much in harm’s way on the front lines as many of our healthcare workers, and they have often been called upon for emergency medical support,” Murphy said during today’s COVID-19 briefing. “And they’ve been the ones who have had to deal with the knuckleheads, including at super spreader events.”
Along with this came news that New Jersey’s online pre-registration portal went live on January 5, with more than 450,000 New Jersey residents pre-registering for their vaccinations the first day of operation.
“That number alone gives us great optimism as we continue to roll out our robust state-wide vaccine program,” said Murphy, who pointed out pent-up demand for vaccine pre-registration overwhelmed the system, resulting in error messages – an issue he says has been largely resolved. “While we’re incredibly encouraged by the tremendous interest and volume of incoming pre-registrations, our top priority for the moment remains vaccinating our 1A residents, which includes front-line healthcare workers and residents and staff at long-term care centers.”
Thus far, 137,829 vaccinations have been administered statewide, though Murphy believes the numbers are being under reported. Regarding delays in the vaccine rollout, he said New Jersey is experiencing the same issues as other states and there will soon be “hundreds of different places and types of places” where people will be able to be vaccinated, from vaccine mega-sites, to healthcare facilities, to grocery stores, pharmacies and other locations.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli added that rolling out a massive vaccine program during the holidays delayed people from signing up, as well as some uncertainty about the effects of the vaccine. Murphy and Persichilli are scheduled to visit two new mega-sites, one at Rockaway Townsquare Mall in Morris County on Friday, and another at Rowan College of South Jersey in Sewell next week.
During the briefing, Murphy also spoke of ongoing efforts to make sure every New Jersey student engaged in remote learning has the tools and accessibility needed to participate. Over the summer, the Department of Education recognized 231,000 students lacked either hardware or Internet accessibility – a number that has been cut to 8,800.
In addition, Murphy announced the State Board of Education met today and made the final determination to return local control to the Paterson School District, adding, “Paterson has met all requirements for transition back to local control – an effort 30 years in the making.”
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