TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Brian Bergen is marveling that Gov. Phil Murphy and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer—two governors that imposed some of the harshest pandemic restrictions in the nation—are hosting a one-day event on Wednesday about teen mental health at the MGM Grand Detroit.
Lockdowns and social isolation, brought to New Jersey residents by unchecked executive powers over the last three years, led to the teen mental health epidemic today, Bergen said. After Murphy barred in-person learning March 18, 2020, students endured remote learning for the entire 2020-2021 school year, only returning to the classroom, masked and distanced, the following September.
Bergen has staunchly advocated for curbing executive and public health emergency powers since early in the Covid-19 pandemic. His bill (A875), with near-unanimous Republican support in the Assembly, would limit the governor’s emergency orders, rules, or regulations to 14 days without Legislative extension. Otherwise, the orders expire.
His resolve to see this bill advanced strengthened after abysmal test scores and skyrocketing self-reported incidents of depression and anxiety in teens started being reported by mainstream media outlets and intergovernmental organizations, who were cheerleaders for lockdowns despite warnings for poor mental health outcomes, he said.
“Murphy inflicted this mental health crisis on our teens when he adopted God-like powers to the deafening silence of Democrats,” Bergen (R-Morris) said. “As for him and Whitmer, I’d sooner discuss mental health with Lorraine Bracco, who only played a psychiatrist on television.”
The New Jersey governor is among the most powerful in the nation, with the state’s constitution granting him or her the authority to issue executive orders. In 2005, then acting Gov. Albio Sires signed the Emergency Health Powers Act. The legislation, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Joseph F. Vitale, expanded the powers of the governor and state health commissioner to declare a public health emergency and grant them access to whatever tools are needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the emergency. The governor can extend that emergency every 30 days without legislative oversight.
Murphy signed more than 130 Covid-related public health emergency executive orders and extended his powers 17 times.
“He got a taste of monarchic authority and it shows, not only in his regal decorating choices but his absolute abuse of emergency powers, which by the way, he only let go of recently when he could no longer hide behind the CDC or feds,” Bergen said. “The blank check he was handed needs to be revoked. Our children’s educations and lives were forcibly given into his hands, and he failed them. Never again.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February 2023 reported that three in five teen girls “felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021–double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.” Its findings echo that of Johns Hopkins University, which during the same year found that more than 50% of teens surveyed said “the pandemic and response has created problems,” especially causing significant changes in sleep and eating patterns. The World Health Organization said overall reports of depression and anxiety spiked 25%.
“The governor made his ego ‘the science.’ That he has the Fauci’s chutzpah to lead the charge in ‘strengthening teen mental health’ is, quite frankly, bizarre,” Bergen said. “I truly believe we wouldn’t be in this mess had government functioned the way it should, emergency or none. No one man in this nation should have the power he had, and still has.”
“At least he’s holding the roundtable in a majestic hotel,” Bergen added.