Murphy floats vaccine passports for New Jersey; RGA fires back

03/19/2021 

Politico

Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a news conference after witnessing the first coronavirus vaccinations at University Hospital's COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy floated the possibility of vaccine passports during an appearance on CNBC on Friday, laying the groundwork that the small cards signifying immunity from Covid-19 could be the ticket to a normal summer.

“Don’t get rid of the card, that’s likely to be something valuable,” Murphy said, adding that proof of immunization might be necessary to attend sporting events or board a plane. “Laminate it and put it in your wallet.”

Murphy, a progressive Democrat whose comments drew a quick rebuke from the Republican Governors Association, said his administration would follow whatever guidance is issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but that New Jersey would will have its own independent process as well.

Practical and political considerations: Airlines, the travel industry and a handful of states have been pushing the White House to develop criteria that would allow for the use of vaccine passports, but the concept is facing resistance from bioethicists and public health experts who argue that disadvantaged populations would likely be left out. Some prominent Republicans are also dismissing the idea as intractable or an attack on civil liberties.

“Americans are asking the question, ‘How will I be able to demonstrate reliably that I have been vaccinated?’” White House Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said at a Covid task force briefing earlier this week. “We have a couple of core beliefs about that. One is that it’s not the role of the government to hold that data and to do that.“

Murphy is the only governor facing reelection this year and, while his popularity climbed with his initial response to the pandemic, Republicans have been sharpening their attacks on his oversight of the state’s economic recovery.

“Governor Phil Murphy's suggestion that Garden Staters could be required to show proof of vaccine is a health privacy minefield,” RGA spokesperson Will Reinert said in a statement. “Hard-working New Jersey residents have the right to keep their health care decisions between themselves and their doctor, and don't need Phil Murphy in the waiting room telling patients to make sure they 'laminate' their vaccine card on the way out.”

What’s happening in other states: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a pilot program, called the Excelsior Pass, earlier this month to facilitate the reopening of arenas and theaters. Officials in Hawai'i are developing a similar program that would allow visitors to skip its mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who’s viewed as a potential presidential candidate in 2024, said Thursday that his administration won’t be requiring proof-of-vaccination for events or large venues.

“You have some of these states saying to go to a sporting event, you have to show either a negative test or a vaccine proof,” he said at an event in Panama City. “I think you just got to make decisions. If you want to go to an event, go to an event. If you don’t, don’t. But to be requiring people to provide all this proof, that’s not how you get society back to normal.”

The numbers: Murphy's comments about vaccine passports landed the same day New Jersey expanded indoor capacity for restaurants and businesses to 50 percent.

While the state's Covid-19 numbers have improved from where they were around the New Year, daily reports of new cases are climbing at an unsettling rate. New Jersey's daily caseload is higher than anywhere else in the country per-capita, according to The New York Times tracker, and the state on Friday announced more than 3,700 new positive PCR tests along with 28 deaths.

"We've definitely plateaued," Muprhy said on CNBC. "We've come down dramatically from hospitalizations and positivity rates we've seen from a couple of months ago, but it's still uncomfortably too high."

More than 1.1 million New Jerseyans have been fully vaccinated against the virus. Murphy has repeatedly indicated that he hopes to have 4.7 million adults in the state inoculated by the end of May.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-03-20 02:31:34 -0700