Murphy says he wishes N.J. could have acted sooner — and other notes from his 100th COVID-19 briefing

Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking at his 100th COVID-19 briefing, was asked to look back at his actions during the pandemic. And, while he compared the idea to a football coach giving an answer during the middle of a game, he did offer one thought: He wished he had known more earlier — and acted sooner.

To be clear, Murphy does not view his actions as a misstep — and he correctly said New Jersey enacted measures to lock down the state earlier than perhaps any other. The state’s task force was created on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2.

Murphy, however, said it now is clear the virus had impacted the area even sooner than officials realized.

“I think all of us wish we were early than that, particularly in the metro New York reality,” he said. “If we knew on Dec. 2 what we knew was coming on Feb. 2 or the first case on March 4 … if we knew that much earlier, that would have been a huge asset for anyone of us.”

Murphy acknowledged the 100 briefings — saying he hopes the worst is behind the state.

“For those who have been keeping count, today is the 100th time we have come together for one of these briefings,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot and reported a lot to you throughout these 100 days — the good and bad. But, thankfully, this is New Jersey, and we know that we’re in for many better days ahead.”

Here’s a look at some of the other quick-hit opinions he offered:

On how much politics goes into his decisions:

“I literally don’t think about politics at all,” he said — and then repeated it. “I literally don’t think about it all. When I pick up the phone and call a mayor, I don’t care if it’s a Democrat or a Republican.”

On whether the outbreak that has caused Rutgers University to quarantine its football program puts the season in jeopardy:

“The incidents had nothing to do with athletic activity,” he said, referring to conversations he has had with Rutgers officials. “And, so, I’ll speak for myself personally, it does not change my assessment of whether or not we can go ahead with fall sports, because I don’t believe it was related to any of the athletic side of it.”

On whether state should go to all-remote learning:

“Every education expert we’ve spoken to over the past few months has confirmed that in-person education is critical and that remote learning is only an acceptable substitute when absolutely necessary,” he said. “If done safely, I believe we must try to include it.”

On whether school districts would be allowed to decide on their own to go all-remote learning:

“I don’t expect districts will come back with an ‘all-remote’ option,” he said. “Not saying we wouldn’t consider it.”

On potential ‘revenue raisers’ — which is the new way of saying ‘taxes.’

“No updates,” he said. “Assume everything is on the table.”

On concerns people — most notably young people — think we’ve gotten past COVID-19:

“This is among us,” he said. “Any of us who thinks we can put our feet up and relax and let it take its course is not paying attention, particularly congregated inside in close proximity with ventilation or face coverings. You’re looking for trouble no matter how old you are.”

On indoor dining returning:

“We want to get indoors, trust me, believe me, we do,” he said. “But we’ve got to do it right, with the right configuration.”

On what indoor dining could look like:

“I still think when inside dining does come — and I hope it’s going to be sooner rather than later — it’s going to be service at your table, bar service that’s delivered by a waiter or waitress to your table as opposed to bars opening and congregating at the same time,” he said.

On the failure of Republicans in Washington, D.C., to put up a plan to extend supplemental unemployment benefits:

“To leave individuals hanging out there who are unemployed is probably the last thing we should be doing,” he said.

On what he’d like from residents moving forward:

“I just want to plead one more time to parents and kids — don’t congregate inside,” he said. “Please don’t do that. If you’re going to gather, get outside. Wear face coverings. Stay away from each other. If you do that, the chances you’re getting hit by this virus goes down dramatically. It’s not to say it can’t happen, but it’s not likely to happen.”

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