COVID-19 briefings to end in New Jersey two years after first reported case

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during the state's COVID briefing on Feb. 23, 2022. (Screen shot/New Jersey)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during the state's COVID briefing on Feb. 23, 2022. (Screen shot/New Jersey)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. We’re all still trying to figure out how to live with it. What should we know about how you approach the world now? How has the pandemic changed your social life, your work life, your interactions with your neighbors?

The end is near as far as regularly scheduled updates on how New Jersey is weathering the pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that the next COVID-19 briefing will be the last one, citing declining case counts and hospitalizations, the state’s high vaccination rate and the last major mask mandate set to expire March 7.

The final briefing will take place on Friday, March 4, two years after the first COVID-19 case was reported in the Garden State.

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“To be sure, I wasn’t the only governor to hold briefings to update residents on our progress against the virus, but I am proud to have held more than any other,” Murphy said while noting he has held more than 250 briefings.

Murphy said that updates would continue online, but added that an in-person briefing would be held should it be necessary.

“And please God, that need will not arise,” he remarked.

The governor noted the need to move beyond the pandemic, a theme that he has commented on in recent weeks. On NBC’s Meet the Press at the end of January, Murphy said the state will need to “learn how to live” with the virus.

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“We’re not going to manage this to zero. We have to learn how to live with this,” he said.

To date, New Jersey has reported more than 1.8 million confirmed COVID cases since that day. More than 29,000 residents died from the virus, with more than 2,900 deaths listed as probable. Those deaths are being investigated by the state.

Though the briefings will end, there are still some issues left to address like the mask mandate for state offices. The governor said that would be addressed in the “relatively near future.”

“We’re pretty much getting back to where we want to be, which is normal,” Murphy said.

New guidance for schools and daycares

State officials are encouraging school districts and child care centers to consult local health departments as to whether a universal mask policy is needed for its schools or facilities.

Under updated guidance from the state Health Department, universal masking is recommended when conditions, like an active local outbreak, call for it.

“While masks will not be required by the state, they remain an important part of a layered approach against COVID-19 and are recommended in certain circumstances,” said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

The department also recommends masks for children and staff who return from isolation or quarantine and for students who are in a modified quarantine program. Children or staff who fall ill during school or in a child care center should wear a mask until they leave the premises, according to the recommendations.

“A lot of these decisions will quite rightfully be made at the district level with the input of the local health authorities and the local health realities,” Gov. Murphy said.

Persichilli said schools and childcare centers should consider their ability to maintain physical distancing, screen students, perform contact tracing, exclude students and staff who contracted or have been exposed to COVID, maintain adequate ventilation and vaccination rates.

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