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New Jersey "in for several hard months" in coronavirus fight, says Governor Phil Murphy

N.J. governor warns "hard months" ahead in COVID fight
Governor Phil Murphy warns New Jersey "in for several hard months" despite COVID-19 vaccine 30:31

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Tuesday, when the first coronavirus vaccinations in the state are set to be administered, will be "momentous" and "a day for hope and optimism." But, he warned Monday during a public briefing, that shouldn't allow residents to become complacent. 

"We are also in for several hard months, especially the next 6-8 weeks. As vaccinations move forward, we will be facing stiff headwinds into this second wave," he said.

Murphy announced Sunday that the first doses of Pfizer's new vaccine would go to health care workers at University Hospital in Newark on Tuesday. He said the state's first allotment of 76,000 would be split between health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff over the next few weeks.

As of Monday, more than 15,883 people in the state had died of COVID-19, with 4,170 new cases reported. The state has reported more than 400,000 reported cases since the pandemic began in March, and has seen a sharp uptick in cases since the beginning of December. 

"The share of new infections continues to skew toward younger residents, while the share of deaths continues to skew toward older residents," Murphy said.

The state will get 86,000 doses next week, said Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli on Monday, and a total of three shipments in December. Persichilli also said the state anticipates getting doses of the Moderna vaccine once it is approved, possibly as early as next week. Since that vaccine doesn't need to be stored at temperatures as cold as Pfizer's vaccine, it can go to a wider variety of distribution sites, she said.

The Food and Drug Administration last week approved an emergency use authorization for the vaccine created by Pfizer/BioNTech, and is expected to approve one for Moderna's vaccine as well. 

"We can begin to feel more optimistic that the end is coming, but we still have a tough winter ahead of us. That is why it is so important we continue to remain vigilant," Persichilli said, urging residents to continue measures such as wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing.

The rise in cases in New Jersey is part of a nationwide surge following the Thanksgiving holiday, and the state has a mask mandate in place as well as restrictions on businesses. Restaurants and bars can only have indoor service from 5-10 p.m., though outdoor dining, takeout and delivery services can go later. Gatherings are restricted to 25 people and fewer.

State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick Callahan said police and state officials cited businesses and individuals over violations of the state's executive order, and in one case, police arrested two parents and a 16-year-old for what he described as a "large house party." Officials also conducted inspections of bars and restaurants late last week and over the weekend, leading to citations. 

The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S. were administered Monday, including in New York City.

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