The governor was asked a few days ago when he would consider the pandemic to be over.
Health officials helped him out and said progress will continue, but don’t expect a V-E or V-J day.
That could be, but Phil Murphy still made Friday a reason to celebrate.
He said at a press conference in Newark that the state has now reached its self-imposed goal of vaccinating 4.7 million eligible people who live, work or study in New Jersey.
Not only that, the governor said the goal was reached 12 days before the announced June 30 deadline.
The event outside University Hospital was also highlighted by the governor announcing plans to name the state’s new Health Department building after Commissioner Judy Persichilli to commemorate her leadership in fighting the pandemic.
Nonetheless, the governor cautioned, “This is not the end.”
Murphy likes sports analogies and he noted that after Henry Aaron eclipsed Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974, he didn’t stop playing. No, he hit 40 more home runs before his career ended.
Likewise, Murphy said, “We’re going to put our heads down and keep driving this thing.”
He expressed hope that the number of New Jersey residents vaccinated against COVID will reach 5 million or 6 million.
The state is offering a number of incentives to persuade the hesitant to get their shots. In step with that, the governor has begun talking about a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Persichilli said she was stunned and speechless at plans to name the department’s building after her.
She joked that the building must be pretty big, because she has a long name.
More seriously, Persichilli said New Jersey pulled together as a state to reach the 4.7 million goal, noting its 15 vaccine mega-sites.
Meanwhile, Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican candidate for governor, was unimpressed with what he called Murphy’s “victory lap.”‘
He called it “offensive” to residents who died in nursing homes, to students who lost a year of in-person instruction and to small businesses that closed because of pandemic regulations.
As for the vaccine program, Ciattarelli said it was county governments that made it a success and that Murphy should be thanking them.