Gov. Phil Murphy tried to be understanding — and said he gets the fact that people of all ages are looking to blow off a little steam and hang out with friends.
“I can’t fault anyone for that,” he said. “And, with the weather we’ve been having, I understand the desire to escape the heat and head into the air conditioning.”
But his understanding ended there.
“We cannot — we simply cannot — continue to have crowded house parties,” he said. “They simply are not safe. They are how coronavirus gets passed around more efficiently. They put the hard work we’ve all undertaken since March at risk of being undone.”
Murphy rattled off the stats.
A house party attended by teens in Middletown that has now been linked to more than 50 new positive cases of coronavirus in attendees between the ages of 15 to 19.
A party on Long Beach Island that has now sidelined nearly three dozen lifeguards from Harvey Cedars and Surf City.
And, of course, the now infamous massive house party in Jackson last weekend that had an estimated 700 people — and which took nearly the entire Jackson Township police force to break up, he said.
“We don’t even know yet how many new coronavirus cases may ultimately be the outcome of that out-of-control party,” he said. “Yes, it’s hot. Yes, it’s summer. Yes, we all want — and in many cases, need — to blow off some steam. But, this is no time for anyone to be vying for induction into the Knucklehead Hall of Fame.”
And, if you’re a teen or young adult, potentially become part of a growing statistic.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said those between the ages of 18-29 now make up one-third of all new cases. That’s an increase from 22% in June and 12% in April.
Murphy pleaded for two things: To have gatherings outdoors and — if you’ve been at a party where an outbreak has occurred — to take the call from contact tracers.
While people have been participating more, Murphy said the numbers taking the call are not high enough. He said, again, that the call will have nothing to do with whether you were participating in an illegal activity, such as underage drinking.
“Folks are still not taking the call and cooperating to the extent they should,” he said. “We do not and never will condone illegal behavior — and that includes underage drinking. That is not what this is about.
“This is about a pandemic, a public health crisis that we’re in the midst of, a risk that (it) could spread wildly. You’re seeing it spread elsewhere in the country and, frankly, the world — you saw how it spread here. We need folks to take the call.”
Murphy again stressed that young people can unknowingly pass COVID-19 to older people.
“Just because you are younger and, hopefully, less susceptible to the ravages of COVID-19 is not an excuse to let your guard down,” he said. “You are not immune. Do not become the person who unknowingly contracts coronavirus at a party and then spreads it to your parents, or grandparents, or other loved ones, who may be more susceptible.
“Just because it is summer does not mean that we give up common sense or personal responsibility. We can have an enjoyable summer. We can gather together with our friends — but, only in small groups and, hopefully, only outdoors.
“But, when there are hundreds of people crammed into a house, where the air-conditioning system is simply blowing the air around, and where people are not wearing masks, you have also invited coronavirus to your party.”
Murphy said this is what worries him for the future.
“Over the past four months, we have crushed the curve,” he said. “But, over the past four days, we have reported roughly 2,000 new positive coronavirus test results. We are now back to where we were roughly a month ago in the daily numbers of new cases.
“We cannot go backwards.”