Gov. Phil Murphy (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)
Press briefings that were a staple of the Murphy administration’s pandemic-era communications strategy will come to an end on March 4, the second anniversary of the state’s first case of COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.
“We’re getting back to where we want to be, which is normal,” Murphy said.
The briefings, he said, may return if the state sees a “meaningful material deterioration” in its COVID-19 metrics.
The governor’s announcement comes as the state winds down a series of virus restrictions in response to tumbling case counts, including a school mask mandate set to expire on March 7.
New Jersey reported 1,058 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, down from the 33,459 recorded on Jan. 7, the height of the Omicron variant surge.
Other pandemic restrictions — including a vaccine mandate for workers in health care, long-term care, corrections, and other congregate settings — remain in place. The same is true for the public health emergency declaration Murphy reissued last month and renewed in early February. The governor declined to comment when asked whether he would allow the declaration to lapse in March.
The governor signaled other virus restrictions — including a mask mandate for state workers — would sunset not long after the school mask mandate expires.
Some restrictions, like masking requirements on public transportation and in certain health care facilities, were enacted at the federal level and can only be withdrawn by federal authorities.
The briefings, held between once and five times each week throughout the course of the pandemic, propelled Murphy into a position of national prominence.
Before the state recorded its first case of COVID-19, polls found the governor was unknown to as many as a quarter of the state’s residents. Soon after the pandemic reached New Jersey, voters knew who he was, and the governor’s approval ratings soared to above 70%, though those figures — like briefing viewership — have since ebbed.
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