TRENTON, NJ – In seven days, Governor Phil Murphy’s latest pandemic public health emergency is order is set to expire and the governor said on Wednesday that he is once again meeting with state legislators to negotiate an extension.
The emergency order signed on January 11th after legislators ignored the governor’s request for a 90-day extension expires next Wednesday. Murphy is expected to once again push for a 90-day legislature-backed extension.
On Wednesday, Murphy was reluctant to relay the message of the National Governor’s Association to which he serves as vice president. That organization of 50 state governors decided earlier in the week it was time to end the COVID-19 pandemic and switch the nation’s response to the virus to an endemic declaration.
Murphy said he had no choice on January 11th but to use his executive powers to extend the emergency order. That 30-day order allowed Murphy to continue the public school mask mandate and other pandemic executive orders still active.
“We had no choice, on January 11th, we had 30 to 40,000 cases,” Murphy said. Having a meeting with legislative leadership tomorrow (Thursday), so no news. We want to do this always in a smart and responsible way that meets the moment. It doesn’t undershoot it and it doesn’t overshoot it.”
If you’re expecting the school mask mandate to end next week or the governor to relinquish his control, don’t bet on it. Murphy said on Wednesday that even though the COVID-19 numbers are dropping rapidly, he’s not there yet.
“Even with these numbers dropping, none of us are at a point where we feel completely comfortable,” Murphy said. “We saw last winter how the numbers can turn back around and we do not want to test that theory with omicron, so we have to remain on a vigilant footing.”
As far as the unified message from the National Governor’s Association to end the pandemic, Murphy said he wasn’t there yet either.
“Every time you think you have this thing figured out, it humbles you,” Murphy said. “I almost don’t want to say what the summary assessment was, but the general consensus is that we’re on the road from pandemic to an endemic.”
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, the chairman of the National Governor’s Association said, “We need the CDC to help us to have the right standards to end this pandemic and move to more endemic status.”
“We’re not going to agree on everything,” Murphy said during a roundtable discussion with Hutchinson earlier in the week.
“[Asa Hutchinson] is a very good man, a good governor, but I don’t agree with him on everything,” Murphy said Wednesday.