Murphy says he may — may — have timetable for more reopenings by end of week

Gov. Phil Murphy got closer to announcing timelines for key stages in New Jersey’s reopening during his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday. He just wouldn’t commit to any dates.

“I’m not going to marry myself to a day, but I would hope by the end of the week — assuming the curve is going in the right direction, and that’s a big assumption — that we could give a little bit more guidance as to some other things that we’re looking at on that road back to recovery,” he said. “But don’t hold us to a day.”

He did say that, on Tuesday, he will announce more specifics around increased testing and contact tracing — two initiatives that must happen to open up more of the state.

And he also said the possibility of having some type of high school graduation is not out of the question — by the end of the summer.

“If you’re graduation is June 1, I can’t honestly tell you that you’re going to get there by then,” he said. “But could we get there down the road. The answer is yes.”

Murphy said patience is key. And said he took exception to a tweet by state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel), who called for people to openly rebel against the stay-at-home order.

“The house is still on fire,” he said. “Has it gotten better? It’s clearly gotten better. But, let’s be responsible. Let’s do this together. Opening up county and state parks and golf was a big step.”

Murphy said that, the longer the state commits to social distancing, the better the results will be.

“The benefit you get in terms of literally cracking this virus to the ground — another two weeks at any point in time of social distancing beyond the point that you otherwise would have stopped social distancing — is enormous,” he said. “Your jaw drops — from any point to two weeks later.”

Other notes from Monday’s briefing:

Menendez’s ‘Smart Fund’

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) talked about his “Smart Fund” proposal he hopes to add to the next round of COVID-19 funding.

Menendez said a national emergency requires a national response — one that brings the most money to the hardest-hit areas. That’s why he is cosponsoring the program, formally called the State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition Fund, along with Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator from hard-hit Louisiana.

“We call it the Smart Fund because it’s common sense,” he said. “It’s $500 billion in flexible funding with priority given to areas of our country with the greatest need based on COVID-19 infection rates and lost revenues due to the economic fallout.

“The Smart Fund ensures that New Jersey gets its fair share of federal funding.”

Menendez said U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) is leading the effort in the House of Representatives.

He thinks the program is especially important to the overall U.S. economy.

“(The Northeast) generates 20% of the GDP for the entire nation,” he said. “You want to see the economy thrive, you have to make sure this region thrives and states in general thrive in order to create the employment, tax revenues and the consumer confidence that’s necessary.”

The numbers

Murphy announced there were 1,453 more COVID-19 cases, raising the state total to 139,945.

Bigger news: It’s the sixth consecutive day there have been fewer than 2,000 cases. Even bigger news: It’s the first time the number has been under 1,500. Too soon to call that the new norm?

Murphy also announced there were 59 more fatalities, raising the state total to 9,310.

The hospital numbers, as of 10 p.m. Sunday night:

  • In hospitals: 4,195;
  • In intensive/critical care: 1,255;
  • On ventilators: 970;
  • Admitted: 179;
  • Discharged: 227;
  • In FEMA hospitals: 30.

National Guard

The federal government has extended Title 32, which means the National Guardsmen and Guardswomen will continue to receive pay through the federal government through late June.

“Our Guardsmen and Guardswomen have been an integral part of our response team,” Murphy said.

Budget address

Murphy said he is considering a suggestion to have a second budget address.

Car parades

State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan clarified the stance on car parades for graduations and other occasions. They are fine, he said, if a few people want to stand on a doorstep and watch cars go by. They are not OK if a large group of people — potentially high school seniors — gathers together and has cars go by.

Final word

Murphy on face coverings:

“The more we can cover our faces, the better off we’ll be. And I think, increasingly by the day, if not the minute, there’s less stigma associated with it. It’s just what we’re doing these days. It is what it is.”

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