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Gov. Murphy announces independent review of state’s response to COVID-19 pandemic

Gov. Phil Murphy has announced the beginning of an independent review of New Jersey’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the state of readiness in early 2020, and how the state responded to the many challenges that emerged over the last three years.

The review, which will contain recommendations to enhance the state’s preparedness for a future public health crisis, will be conducted by a team at Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhoads, in conjunction with the management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, according to a Nov. 28 press release from Murphy’s office.

New Jersey is the first state in the nation to commission an independent and comprehensive review on the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the press release.

The team at Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhoades will be led by Paul Zoubek, who served as First Assistant Attorney General during the administrations of Republican governors Christie Whitman and Donald DiFrancesco.

Zoubek has extensive experience in emergency management, having served as the No. 2 official in the Department of Law and Public Safety during the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and he has conducted a number of high-profile investigations of state government over the years, including a review of the New Jersey State Police’s boxing program conducted last year.

Boston Consulting Group is regarded as one of the world’s leading management consulting firms, with extensive expertise advising companies and governments on organizational structure across the globe, according to the press release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the biggest challenges our state and nation has ever faced,” Murphy said. “Throughout the pandemic, my responsibility as Governor demanded that I make every decision based on the available data, facts and science in order to preserve the health and safety of all 9.3 million residents, regardless of the politics.

“My responsibility as Governor also demands a full and comprehensive review of how the state was prepared for and responded to the pandemic, so we can take the steps to better prepare future administrations for a public health crisis.

“While COVID-19 is still present in our state, nation and world, we have moved from the pandemic to the endemic phase and now is the right time to undertake such an independent review.

“As a widely respected, apolitical and experienced state and federal prosecutor, Paul Zoubek is exactly the right person to lead this review, and has the experience in emergency management and government investigations that makes him perfectly suited for this task. I am grateful to him, the rest of the team at Montgomery McCracken Walker and Rhoads, and the Boston Consulting Group for agreeing to take on this important project,” Murphy said.

The review of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will include, but not be limited to, the state of readiness in New Jersey for a pandemic in early 2020, prominent emergency policy decisions that were made by the New Jersey government, the pandemic response with respect to vulnerable residents, including members of congregate care settings, and the state government’s efforts to continue core functions, including providing direct services to residents, according to the press release.

The review will also examine the management of public health aspects of the pandemic, including testing, vaccinations, personal protective equipment procurement and distribution, and coordination of the health care system and of health information around COVID-19.

The review will conclude with a comprehensive report that is expected to be released in late 2023 and will contain recommendations for enhancements and reforms to better prepare New Jersey for the next public health crisis, according to the press release.

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