Indoor capacity limits? Total lockdown? Phil Murphy to make COVID-19 announcement Monday

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TRENTON, NJ – Nobody is sure what he’s going to do, but on Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is set to host his first COVID-19 briefing since leaving last week for his Central American family vacation in Costa Rica. Upon his return, it has been learned that his wife Tammy has tested positive for COVID-19.

Out of caution, the governor will host the Monday briefing remotely via teleconference. The meeting comes as COVID-19 is surging across the state with over 100,000 new cases reported in the past week alone. Murphy also returns to New Jersey with many towns and cities imposing COVID-19 restrictions indoor and with nearly 25% of public students getting ready to start the new year with remote learning.

At this point, it’s not certain what, if any new restrictions or mandates the governor will announce to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state. In the past, Murphy has championed lockdowns, business closures, indoor capacity limits and remote learning for students to curb previous outbreaks.

Now, with vaccinations and booster shots available, Murphy is facing a political challenge as his often touted plan to encourage vaccinations and booster shots is proving to be mostly ineffective at stopping the spread of the omicron variant of the virus.

Hospital cases are also surging in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and the rate of transmission of the COVID-19 virus in New Jersey was 1.77 on Sunday as 31,000 new cases were reported.

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Although Murphy’s wife Tammy has contracted COVID-19, the governor’s office today confirmed that he has tested negative, a result that could change over the next 48 hours to one week of the virus incubation period.

On Friday, Murphy said he would not impose a school lockdown, leaving that decision up to the local school districts and it’s uncertain whether he could politically survive another complete business shutdown. Murphy is expected to continue offering residents to get fully vaccinated and boosted, wear facemasks and continue his past policy of shaming the unvaccinated, even though more than 50% of new COVID-19 cases are among the fully vaccinated and boosted.

Murphy will also have to answer for a complete failure and breakdown of the state’s COVID-19 testing policy which has been operating beyond maximum capacity for the past week. At-home tests are hard to come by and appointments to get tested and vaccinated at public clinics are booked through the middle of January in many counties.

It is also unlikely that Murphy will impose a vaccine pass as the vaccination status of patients over the past two weeks has become irrelevant. The pandemic, in New Jersey, is no longer a ‘pandemic among the unvaccinated’, but a pandemic among the entire population as the highly infectious, but milder omicron variant spreads across New Jersey.

Bob Walker and Phil Stilton contributed to this report.

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