Murphy offers warning: ‘Next number of weeks are going to be hell’

Governor feels vaccine may make residents relax precautions — and do so at time when COVID is raging

The news that the state is in the process of being shipped 76,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine — and that the first vaccinations will take place Tuesday morning — is evidence of the light at the end of the tunnel, Gov. Phil Murphy said Sunday. But it doesn’t mean there will be a smooth road to get there.

“The next number of weeks are going to be hell, I fear,” Murphy said Sunday morning, speaking on “This Week” on ABC.

With the country at record highs for both cases and fatalities, Murphy implored residents to maintain safety measures in the coming days, weeks and months. He fears the optimism over the vaccine, combined with increased holiday activities and general COVID fatigue, could be a disastrous combination.

On Sunday, the state announced 4,170 new cases — bringing its cumulative total over the 400,000 mark, at 400,650. The state announced 6,247 new cases Saturday.

The fatality total is just as striking, with nearly 100 more announced this weekend (71 on Saturday, 24 on Sunday).

“We’re begging with people to please, please, please don’t let your guard down,” Murphy said. “Even when you’re in private settings.”

That includes holiday celebrations.

“We think somewhere between 60% to 80% of our transmission is in private settings right now,” Murphy said.

Other notes from the weekend:

FEMA relief for Isaias

Murphy announced Friday that President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for New Jersey for Tropical Storm Isaias, which caused millions of dollars in damage.

Isaias, which hit New Jersey on Aug. 4, had wind gusts of more than 100 mph. An estimated 1.4 million homes and businesses lost power. Isaias was considered as powerful as Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene.

Murphy said towns in storm-ravaged areas will now be eligible for aid from FEMA.

Final word

Murphy continued to urge restraint during the holiday season:

“Celebrate holidays small with your immediate family. We know that stinks. But, please God, that’s your down payment for a more normal one next year.”