Murphy on bringing back mask mandates (not there yet), vaccine passports (not there yet, but … )

With COVID-19 cases rising in New Jersey and around the country, Gov. Phil Murphy willingly jumped into the discussion about bringing back mask mandates for all — and the use of a vaccine passport.

The governor, speaking at his now-weekly COVID-19 briefing, used a familiar phrase when discussing both, saying he’s “not there yet.” But, clearly, there is movement on the issue, particularly involving a vaccination passport.

“I will repeat where I’ve been on this requiring a vaccine passport or not,” he said. “I’m open-minded to it, but I’m not there yet. And my reasons continue to be equity.

“We know that we are making progress. But we know that we still have work to do in Black and brown communities. And I don’t want to sign up to something which even inadvertently discriminates against big pieces of our population.”

That being said, Murphy said he does not have issues with certain companies or institutions — such as hospitals and long-term care facilities — requiring vaccination.

“In communities like that, I think we have to be open-minded to the fact that, for the safety and security of residents, patients, that you have to be open-minded to that,” he said.

He also said that, while not getting vaccination may be a choice, it comes with the fact that you are putting others in danger.

“I would just say with respect it is not true,” he said. “You can, by not being vaccinated — you are choosing to put not just your own health at risk, but you are potentially putting others’ health at risk.”

Murphy said he’s glad to see vaccine skepticism appears to be waning — pointing to a number of factors, including seeing a loved one not suffer any side effects. He also pointed to a recent article that suggested another reason folks may choose to get vaccinated.

“People are realizing they will be boxed out of certain activities in society (if they don’t get vaccinated),” he said.

As for masking, Murphy noted — as he has in the past — that changing the mandate is something that could happen overnight.

Other notes from the briefing:

  • On the Delta variant and whether its potential impact is being overblown: “This is not overblown; look at India. Look at Indonesia. Look at the rates in our state of rate of transmission,” he said.
  • On recent study that showed New Jersey is the sixth-most expensive state in which to rent: “The good news is New Jersey is hot right now,” he said. “It’s been increasingly so. There are a lot of people who want to raise their family here. There are a lot of companies that want to start here or move operations here. That’s great. But it further exacerbates a very challenging housing market.”