Murphy ‘holding out hope’ for some type of commencement events

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | May 18, 2020 at 3:33 pm

If you’re holding out hope that there can be some sort of commencement exercise for graduating students this summer, you are not alone. Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s with you.

“Should school districts, should students, should moms and dads hold out hope that we can somehow have some form of an in-person commencement?” he asked, then answered. “The answer is they should hold out hope. I have that same hope.”

Murphy, speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing, said he has no dates or timelines or anything remotely centered on guidance for graduations — just a hope that continually improving indicators could make something possible.

He said 2020 graduation classes — no matter the level of education — will have a unique experience.

“This commencement year is unlike any in our lives,” he said.

His only comparison would be the Class of 1944, which celebrated near the time of D-Day. He said everyone should acknowledge how unusual this is — and have respect for the accomplishment even though people can’t gather in the way they would otherwise gather.

Murphy has a college-age son himself.

Murphy also said he is holding out hope for more religious services, though he admits that indoor services — which often have little ventilation — would be among the last occasions that would be permitted.

As for an alternative?

“We are now allowing drive-through faith services,” he said. “That’s a step in the right direction. I would hope that we could see outdoor faith services in a matter of weeks.”

Other notes from his Monday briefing:

Civil disobedience

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr drew national attention Monday for reopening in defiance of the executive order. It’s unclear who was cited or for what in the incident — State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said the owners were cited and patrons were warned.

Murphy said he’s not concerned that this will become a trend — and not bothered by the fact that individual towns will be relied on for enforcement.

“I’m not overly concerned right now that we’re doing to have different towns doing different things,” he said.

He said that, assuming the numbers keep improving, more businesses will be allowed to open.

“I’m not concerned it will spiral out of control,” he said — and hinted the state will take action if the opening continues Tuesday.

But he also said he wants to proceed with caution, considering the direction the state is headed.

“These aren’t just words; we’ve got to enforce this,” he said. “But I also don’t want to start World War III.”

As for the weekend at the Shore, Murphy said he was pleased with the social distancing. His only complaint: Not enough people were wearing face coverings.

The numbers

Murphy announced there were 1,735 more COVID-19 cases, increasing the state’s total to 148,039. He also said there were 83 more fatalities, increasing the state’s total to 10,435. In both instances, he noted there usually is a lag on weekend reporting.

Hospital numbers, as of 10 p.m. Sunday night:

  • In hospitals: 3,509;
  • In intensive/critical care: 1,053;
  • On ventilators: 819;
  • Admitted: 334;
  • Discharged: 190;
  • In FEMA hospitals: 40.

The final word

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli disputed a report that she and the governor do not speak enough.

I talk to the governor every day and, if I can’t get his attention, then I text him.”

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