TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would give the Governor the authority to declare a public health emergency and take steps to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the emergency was released from the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
“This bill would give the Governor the ability to respond rapidly when a public health crisis threatens the well-being of New Jersey’s residents,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Government needs certain safeguards in place so that, in the event of an immediate health risk, we can respond effectively and efficiently to protect New Jerseyans. This bill would give us the tools to respond.”
The bill, S-2085, would expand the powers of the Governor and the State Commissioner of Health and Senior Services in order to rapidly respond to public health emergencies to include planning and executing public health emergency plans, coordinating public health response between State and local authorities, collaborating with relevant federal authorities and agencies of other states, and organizing and dispensing public information regarding health emergencies.
The bill would also allow for the emergency quarantine of individuals who pose a serious health risk to the general population, and would establish a vaccine education and prioritization plan, such as the one used this past winter to combat the shortage of flu vaccines in the State.
“Last year’s flu vaccine shortage is a key example of why we need this legislation,” said Senator Vitale. “Everyone recognized why we had to prioritize flu vaccines for senior citizens, who are more vulnerable to the effects of the flu, and the bill had bipartisan support, but it still took two days to move through the legislative process, even after we set the implementation guidelines. We cannot rely on the speed of government, even at its fastest, when lives are at stake in New Jersey, and this bill gives the Governor the authority to do what needs to be done to save lives.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.