Gov. Phil Murphy today signed legislation establishing a commission to create a memorial for frontline and healthcare workers who valiantly fought and risked their lives battling the coronavirus.
The legislation, which Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., D-Middlesex, sponsored, requires the commission to select a suitable design and location for the memorial, and establishes a non-lapsing fund to serve as a repository for any donations or appropriations provided for the memorial’s design, construction, and maintenance.
Since the pandemic’s onset, more than 2.2 million New Jerseyans have contracted COVID-19, which has accounted for the confirmed deaths of more than 31,000 state residents, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
The casualties include frontline and healthcare workers who displayed tremendous courage and dedication in their efforts to treat coronavirus patients, Diegnan said.
According to project reporting from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, more than 3,600 health care workers nationwide died fighting COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic alone. New Jersey accounted for nearly 270 of those deaths, ranking fourth in the country behind New York, Texas, and California.
“These frontline and healthcare workers are the definition of the word heroes,” Diegnan said. “As one of the early epicenters of COVID-19, it is important for New Jersey to memorialize the tragic consequences of the pandemic and recognize the state’s immense loss of life.”
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates as many as 180,000 health and care workers may have died of COVID-19 from January 2020 to May 2021, creating an irreplaceable gap in the world’s pandemic response.
Healthcare workers from myriad fields, including those from police and fire departments, rose above their usual scope of duties in New Jersey to combat the surging cases of COVID-19, often with limited healthcare resources.
New Jersey’s COVID-19 Frontline and Healthcare Worker Memorial Commission will consist of nine public members who are state residents and representative of frontline and healthcare workers.
The Governor shall appoint all nine members of the committee with three recommendations each from the Speaker of the General Assembly and the Senate President.
Of the frontline workers who paid the ultimate price for their selflessness, Diegnan said, “Hopefully, this memorial will bring some comfort to their families.
“It is important that their sacrifice never be forgotten.”