Who is responsible for managing public health emergencies in municipalities?

Municipal governments, through the local boards of health, are granted broad authority to manage public health emergencies and are given an array of tools to curtail the spread of communicable disease.    

By statute (N.J.S.A. 26:3-1), every municipality in New Jersey is required to provide a program of public health services meeting standards of performance as determined by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.  These standards are defined by the Department in the Public health Practice Standards of Performance for Local Boards of Health in New Jersey (N.J.A.C. 8:52).  A municipality may meet this requirement by:

  • Maintaining a municipal health department;
  • Contracting with the health department of another municipality;
  • Participating in a regional health commission; or
  • Contracting with, or agreeing to come under the jurisdiction of, a county health department.

Most of New Jersey’s municipalities participate in some sort of shared agreement to meet their statutory requirement of providing a local board of health. Very few municipalities have their own board of health.  So, while New Jersey consists of 565 municipalities, there are far fewer local health departments

It is through the local boards of health, whatever form they may be, that municipal officials will address public health emergencies such as communicable diseases and epidemics.  

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1. Who is responsible for managing public health emergencies in municipalities?
2. What tools are available to respond to a public health emergency?
3. How do I get questions answered about coronavirus?
4. Can our municipality appropriate additional funds to our Local Board of Health to address this epidemic?
5. Has any guidance been issued on continuing to comply with OPRA requests?
6. When is the new date for primary election day?
7. What are the deadlines for school districts with elections postponed until May?
8. Where can I find the latest information on the CARES Act?
9. Can local governments restrict short-term stays to prevent the spread?
10. How can we continue operating when we are experiencing staffing shortages?
11. Can we proceed with fire code enforcement during the pandemic?
12. Has any guidance been given on hosting public meetings?
13. Where can I find information on the budget deadline extension, levy cap exemptions and estimated tax bills?
14. Where can I find COVID-19 related resources from the League?