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Gottheimer urges Governor to take critical steps to protect NJ from the effects of Omicron and to address its impact on communities, hospitals, families and students

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Gottheimer urges Governor to take critical steps to protect NJ from the effects of Omicron and to address its impact on communities, hospitals, families and students

Visit the testing site at the Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck

Thank you to the health care workers on the front lines

GLEN ROCK, NJ – U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) urges Governor Phil Murphy to take critical steps to help the state address the current COVID-19 Omicron surge and its impact on hospital staff, families, students and communities to support.

Gottheimer asks Governor Murphy:

  1. Alleviate hospital staffing shortages by allowing recently retired health professionals to have their licenses temporarily reactivated and by allowing certain providers to help outside of their normal duties when needed;
  2. Continue to use the New Jersey National Guard to expand COVID-19 testing capacity in our hardest-hit communities; and
  3. Continuing important efforts to keep schools safe and open for personal teaching.

Today, Gottheimer visited the Holy Name Medical Center’s COVID-19 testing site in Teaneck to highlight the importance of testing, raise awareness of testing options across the fifth district, and thank the frontline health workers for their hard work. Gottheimer was accompanied by Teaneck Mayor James Dunleavy, Nancy Palamara, Pharm.D, Vice President, Diagnostics and Therapeutics of the Holy Name Medical Center, and Edward Torres, Administrative Director, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the Holy Name Medical Center

“In the weeks since November 30th when public health officials first identified the Omicron variant as a ‘worrying’ variant, Americans have seen the rapid spread of the new variant and the ability to evade vaccination. […] After speaking with Fifth District voters and public health executives across North Jersey, I believe your government can take several additional steps to mitigate the effects of the Omicron variant. ” Congressman Josh Gottheimer wrote in a Letter to Governor Phil Murphy this week. “By taking the additional steps outlined here, we can reduce the impact of the Omicron variant and minimize the disruptions it will cause in the coming weeks.”

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

January 7, 2022

The Honorable Phil Murphy

Governor, New Jersey State

Office of governor

P.O. Box 001

Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor Murphy:

In the weeks since November 30th when public health officials first identified the Omicron variant as a “variant of concern,” Americans have seen the rapid spread of the new variant and the ability to evade vaccination. I commend you for the prompt response from the State of New Jersey to this new phase of the pandemic, including your work to ensure that New Jersey residents remain vigilant with vaccinations and the wearing of masks.

Nevertheless, additional measures are necessary to equip our communities as best as possible for this variant. Several steps could be directly beneficial: (1) expanding the flexibility of admission and scope for frontline workers to increase the supply of skilled providers; (2) continue using the New Jersey National Guard to expand COVID-19 testing; and (3) continue your efforts to keep schools open – not only for the continuity of education, but also because of the impact of school closings on childcare, which would further exacerbate the challenges our key workers face.

You quickly prepared New Jersey for the Omicron variant. Since early December, when officials discovered the first Omicron case in the state, they have been urging Jersey residents to get vaccinated, boosted and wear masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. For the past few days you’ve been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve population access to testing in underserved areas of our state. These measures – coupled with the pioneering work of the life science industry in New Jersey to bring cutting-edge therapeutics to market – have resulted in a stronger foundation that we now have to tackle the current wave of this pandemic.

Despite all this progress, I believe, after speaking with Fifth District voters and public health executives across North Jersey, that your government can take several additional steps to mitigate the effects of the Omicron variant. First, hospital systems in my district are facing immediate staff shortages due to the high rates of infection among frontline staff. I was delighted that your administration this week called for “strike teams” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) across New Jersey to address the shortage of staff in critical hospital systems. In addition, I encourage your administration to renew the recently expired license and scope flexibility of your Executive Order (EO) 112, which was issued at the beginning of the pandemic. As you know, this EO has taken several steps to increase the availability of frontline health professionals. Unfortunately, with the advent of the Omicron wave, these steps are necessary again.

Second, as you know, the hospital systems in my district have been hit hard by the increase in testing in the past few days as schools, workplaces, travel destinations and other public accommodations require evidence of a negative COVID-19 test. Due to the difficulty many of my constituents have had in accessing rapid tests at home, hospital emergency rooms have seen an onslaught of otherwise healthy people presenting to the emergency room looking for a COVID-19 test. This event speaks for the demand for better test accessibility. It also affects the entire health system, making it difficult for those in dire need of treatment to get the care they need. While we wait for additional rapid home tests to be shipped, I encourage you to continue using the New Jersey National Guard to expand COVID-19 testing capacity in our hardest hit communities.

Finally, I was excited about your administration launching a test-to-stay program for K-12 schools in New Jersey on January 1st. As a result, more students are staying in school and receiving in-person tuition through the combination of contact tracing and frequent testing. As you can see, where possible, personal education and the benefits it brings to our children are preferred to distance learning. Without personal training, many parents face the difficult decision of whether to continue working or to stay at home to look after their children. In fact, hospital administrations across North Jersey have made me aware of the importance of personal training to prevent further exhaustion of their workforce, which consists mostly of parents with school-age children. Doing whatever it takes to keep the children in schools must remain a priority.

Thank you for your continued guidance at this challenging time and for the immediate steps you have already taken to lead New Jersey through this pandemic. By taking the additional steps outlined here, we can reduce the impact of the Omicron variant and minimize the disruptions it will cause in the coming weeks. I appreciate your consideration.

Sincere,

Josh Gottheimer

CONGRESS MEMBER

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