N.J. Assembly passes bill to create a memorial for frontline workers who died from coronavirus

The measure passed in both houses of the state Legislature. Now it heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

New Jersey Assembly chambers. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

New Jersey Assembly chambers. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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New Jersey is one step closer to creating a memorial in honor of frontline workers who died from the coronavirus.

The General Assembly passed a measure that would establish the COVID-19 Frontline and Healthcare Worker Memorial Commission.

The Commission would be tasked with designing and constructing the memorial.

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Under the proposal, Gov. Murphy would be responsible for appointing nine members of the public to serve on the commission.

Special consideration would be given to frontline and healthcare workers from New Jersey, including police and fire personnel, people with knowledge of erecting monuments, and people with experience in grant funding and business administration.

It’s unclear how many frontline and healthcare workers have died since the onset of the pandemic. Kaiser Health Network and The Guardian reported in April 2021 that more than 3,600 healthcare workers died of the disease in the first year of the pandemic, including 268 in New Jersey.

Loved And Lost, a virtual memorial commemorating more than 1,000 New Jerseyans who died of the coronavirus honors several frontline workers.

It’s a reminder of the toll the pandemic took at its worst, and continues to take in its waning days.

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The project was led by The North Jersey Record and supported by the Center For Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

“I think that it’s important to have different types of initiatives to remember and honor people,” said Mariela Santos-Muniz, collaborative journalism database and newsletter coordinator for the Center For Cooperative Media. “It’s very promising to hear that the state might be doing something,”

The proposal would also set up the COVID-19 Frontline and Healthcare Worker Memorial Fund within the Treasury Department. It would be enabled to receive donations and government funding for costs associated with designing, erecting, and maintaining the memorial.

The Senate also passed the measure at the beginning of the month.

It’s unclear if and when Murphy will sign the measure, and the Governor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.

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