Murphy explains willingness to not follow leads of N.Y., Pa. on indoor dining

Over the course of the pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy has been in constant contact with the two governors of New Jersey’s neighboring states: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania. While these states have had a working relationship, many are now wondering why New Jersey is not following New York and Pennsylvania in banning indoor dining.

Murphy, speaking at his COVID-19 briefing Monday, said different states can take different approaches.

“We are very close. That doesn’t mean we move in lock step,” he said. “We’ve done different things in different moments within the context of broad harmony. We were one of the last states in America to open indoor dining, and we never got above 25%. When you do more things inside than I do, you have a higher risk of exposure and risk of getting the virus. Specifically, when you have to take (your mask) off.”

Other notes from the briefing:

Health metrics

Murphy announced 4,805 new COVID-19 cases. In total, this marks 405,448 new cases since March. In hospitals throughout the state Sunday, 300 COVID patients were discharged, 350 were admitted, and 50 died, but are awaiting lab confirmation.

Additionally, there are 25 new deaths that have now been confirmed to be from COVID-related complications. In total, 15,907 residents have lost their lives to coronavirus since March, while another 1,868 deaths are classified as probable.

Other hospital numbers:

  • In hospital: 3,635 (3,425 confirmed, 210 awaiting confirmation);
  • In ICU: 704 (first time over 700 since May 28);
  • On ventilators: 491;
  • Rate of transmission: 13;
  • Positivity rate: 95% (from Dec. 10).

Contact tracing

Despite his own recent report that tracers were being met with an almost 75% noncompliance rate, Murphy announced that his administration is not giving up that easily.

“Last week, we put another 223 more contact tracers on the job,” Murphy said. “More than 3,300 are working diligently every day to fight this public health crisis. We have met our benchmark of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents in every county but one.”

Murphy also noted that many counties have already far surpassed that benchmark. He likes seeing this number of tracers out on the job, but he warns residents who aren’t cooperating that they need to change their tune.

“We have made sure our contact tracing corps is properly trained,” Murphy said. “We have done everything we can to give our communities to fight COVID, and, yet, they hit walls because the people they are trained to help aren’t helping them or themselves. “

Final word

On the administration of the first COVID vaccine in New Jersey on Tuesday morning:

“Tomorrow morning, (Health Commissioner) Judy (Persichilli) and I will be in Newark to witness some of our heroic frontline health care workers receive the first vaccinations against COVID-19 in New Jersey. As the morning continues, our other health systems and hospitals statewide will begin vaccinating their frontline workers as well. … As we have been saying all along, this is not the end. It is, however, a momentous day and day we have all been waiting for.”