N.J. Gov. Murphy says task force will be formed to implement recommendations from COVID response review

The $9 million report has 33 recommendations that Gov. Phil Murphy says will be worked on through the end of his term.

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Miriam Palomino, right, receives the COVID-19 vaccine in Paterson

Miriam Palomino, right, received the COVID-19 vaccine in Paterson, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said a task force will be set up to implement the recommendations made in a review of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommendations in the $9 million report, which was released Monday, included documenting existing pandemic plans immediately, making specific investments to reduce health disparities across the state and increasing the readiness and resiliency of the hospital system in an emergency.

During WHYY’s Ask Governor Murphy program on Wednesday, the governor said the panel will likely continue working through the list until his last day in office.

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“It’s gonna take us a while to chop through all of these recommendations,” he said. “The public health infrastructure is a huge lift financially and otherwise. Preparedness tabletop exercises, making sure that when you change administrations, there’s x number of days dedicated between Election Day and inauguration to exercises and prepping for this.”

Murphy said the task force will be led by Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston, and State Police Superintendent Colonel Pat Callahan. He describes the panel as taking on a “whole of government” approach.

Dr. Stephanie Silvera, epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University, welcomes the formation of the task force. She hopes it includes leaders from communities that have been hit the hardest, along with experts in health education who can address the workforce and training needs regarding public health and data collection, management and analysis.

“We need to have legislators who are willing to support the changes that are recommended and put aside partisanship to work for the benefit of the people of New Jersey to ensure that we do not get to the next public health crisis,” she said.

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Working with the Legislature to institute the recommendations will be “a chunk” of the work the task force will handle, said Murphy.

“Statutes have a permanency to them that will help cement practices and preventions, etc. in place,” the governor added. “A big part of [the task force’s] remit will be to make sure that there’s … a system [and] procedures in place that will be there forever and for always.”

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