Nearly 35,000 deaths are blamed on COVID-19 in New Jersey.

For months, Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly promised a review of the state's response to the pandemic, but it is unclear if that review has even begun.

On Tuesday, Murphy was asked for a status report.

After some hesitation, he responded, "It's taking a little bit longer than I thought it would."

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Then, when he was pressed further by a reporter, Murphy said, "We are working on a construct."

It has been nearly three years since the pandemic began. The Murphy administration, and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, have been roundly criticized for their early response to the COVID emergency.

Murphy first promised an independent review would be undertaken in April of 2020 as the pandemic was just beginning. In that time, the governor said that the review would look at all aspects of the response: What the state got right, and what it got wrong.

In September he promised the review would be done in "a matter of weeks," but his comments this week make it seem like the administration hasn't even agreed on how that review will be structured.

"I want to make sure it passed the tests," Murphy said, referring to his promise of a "comprehensive and independent" review."

A previous review of the state's response to COVID in nursing homes and long-term care facilities done by an independent consultant in 2020 showed those facilities were largely unprepared, resulting in thousands of deaths.

The report did not, however, directly criticize moves made by the Murphy administration, including orders for sick patients to be readmitted into long-term care facilities.

As for this current review, Murphy's comments make it seem unlikely as the report will be issued until after the midterm elections on Nov. 8.

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