Gov. Phil Murphy has been steady and measured in his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, offering daily reminders on why he feels the strict social distancing measures he has implemented are necessary and are working.
And, as he’s said repeatedly, almost all New Jerseyans have bought into the idea. The protests starting to pop up daily in other states — most notably, Michigan and California — have not yet come here.
But some dissension is beginning to bubble up. And Murphy made it clear he’s willing and eager to fight back.
On Saturday — after seeing the Facebook post from Atlantic City Surrogate James Curcio, who called for an immediate lifting of the governor’s recommendations — the normally affable Murphy lost his cool during his daily COVID-19 briefing.
It is completely and utterly irresponsible, Murphy said.
Curcio’s post said the following:
“Atlantic County officials need to sound the alarm. Reopen New Jersey immediately with sensible restrictions. Trust American freedom, ingenuity and the U.S. Constitution. Untie the hands of the private sector so it can rescue New Jersey from this nightmare.”
Murphy appeared stunned as he read it aloud. Then, he got as angry as he has been during the crisis.
“I would just say this, folks: That is irresponsible,” he said. “If we quote, unquote ‘untie’ the system right now, there will be blood on our hands. And I want to make sure folks understand that. This is literally life and death. What we need now is responsible leadership — we do not need irresponsible leadership.”
Murphy went on. Talking about how he and his administration have had discussions about some of the restrictions, most notably closing parks and golf courses. He said he is happy to err on the side of caution.
“We believe strongly that what we’re doing on both of those fronts is what we need to do to keep people safe, keep them out of the hospitals and, ultimately, keep them alive,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t feel otherwise.
“Think about that for a second: Why would we make you not go to a park if we didn’t think we weren’t trying to protect the general public health of the state? It makes no sense.”
Then came his best line.
“We didn’t run on an anti-park platform,” he said.
His actions, Murphy said, have come for one reason.
“This is doing the right thing to keep people safe, keep them out of hospitals and keep them alive,” he said. “So, anybody out there who thinks ‘Let’s just open the place up’ will lead to lower infections, lower hospitalizations and lower fatalities is being completely, utterly irresponsible.”
It was the second time during an otherwise uneventful briefing that Murphy felt compelled to defend his actions against naysayers.
If we quote, unquote ‘untie’ the system right now, there will be blood on our hands. And I want to make sure folks understand that. This is literally life and death.” Gov. Phil Murphy
Earlier, he blasted the idea that COVID-19 was just like the flu.”
“Let me speak directly to anyone who is sticking to this way of thinking,” he said. “And I can’t put it any more bluntly — based on everything we know at this time — that point of view is wrong.”
The numbers show it, Murphy said.
New Jersey has had 4,070 COVID-19 fatalities, which is greater than the combined total of deaths the state has had for the past three flu seasons combined. (And the death toll is rising by hundreds by the day.)
Murphy also said the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 is far greater than that for the flu.
How much? One-tenth of 1% of flu cases end up in the hospital. Ten percent of COVID-19 cases do. That means you’re 100 times more likely to be hospitalized, Murphy said.
We didn’t run on an anti-park platform.” Gov. Phil Murphy
The biggest difference, Murphy said, is our ability to fight COVID-19.
Unlike the flu, there are no vaccines or even treatments — and there’s not likely to be so for at least a year.
It’s the reason Murphy so aggressively defending his actions this weekend.
“This is a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in a century,” he said. “If you have been keeping your eyes and your mind closed to the facts, and to science, please, I beg you to open them — open them wide — before you become one of the numbers that I report here every day.”
It’s hard to argue the logic. Hard to counter the science.
The frustration of being shut inside — while seeing the economy collapse — is not easy. Murphy acknowledges that daily.
But it’s a better choice than storming the capital, as some did in Michigan. Lining the streets in protest, as they did in some parts of California, Wisconsin, Ohio, Maryland, Texas and other states.
Or — stunningly — reopening the beaches, as they did in Florida.
New Jersey has long bragged about the level of education of its workforce and the quality of its schools. It’s time to see how much that means.
Here’s hoping that means residents — and elected officials — are standing with the governor. This isn’t the flu. And it’s no time to be opening up the state.