Gov. Phil Murphy says he has no patience with critics who say he is acting like a dictator as he orders radical restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, a charge that was renewed with his recent order to wear masks outdoors.
“People who say that power has gone to my head, that I find some joy in having everyone cover their faces is ridiculous,” Murphy said Thursday night on NJTV. “It is also irresponsible.”
“We are going to cut that garbage,” he added. “Let’s get on with the basics and the facts, and we’ll be much better at it.”
Murphy made the comments a day after he ordered people in New Jersey to start wearing masks outdoors in public when they can’t practice social distancing, such as on a crowded boardwalk or waiting in line to eat. New Jersey already required masks in closed public settings.
Murphy was harshly criticized by some Republicans for the move, especially as the state’s COVID-19 cases have fallen.
“We see what is happening in other states and we have to take that into account, but we have low numbers and people have been complying,” state Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, told NJ Advance Media. “So they suddenly tell you that the exalted rule wants you to wear masks outside? It makes people wonder how decisions are made and why. “
A Republican state senator, Michael Doherty of Warren County, accused Murphy of “exploiting a public health crisis by power.”
Republicans have also accused Murphy of closing deals to arbitrarily and unfairly fight the virus, hurting the state’s economy in the process. The state party has filed a lawsuit to stop Murphy’s business closings. On Thursday, an appeals court denied his request to pause the orders and speed up the case.
Some Republicans have introduced bills that try to curb the power of a governor in response. Some have called him “King Murphy”, suggesting his trampling on people’s rights.
Murphy said Thursday that he receives “constructive criticism” that he is “responsible” and that he takes it “very seriously.”
“We don’t have all the answers. Tony Fauci doesn’t have all the answers, ”he said, referring to the infectious disease expert at the White House. “If it’s constructive, responsible, even if it’s an angry input, we’ve reacted to every step with a simple attempt to find the right answer.”
But, Murphy emphasized, “There are certain things that we absolutely know about this virus.”
“Social distancing is important,” he said. “Facial covers are important. Washing hands with soap and water is important. We know that if you have symptoms, you should stay home and away from everyone else. That matters. The exterior is less lethal than the interior. Those are the facts.
“So the people who play for some political point are irresponsible and are putting people’s lives at stake,” the governor concluded.
As New Jersey’s number of new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations has dropped dramatically, Murphy has allowed numerous companies to reopen with restrictions. But many, such as gyms, cinemas, and interior sections of restaurants and bars, remained closed.
The governor also said in recent days that he is pausing the reopening process and ordering outdoor masks, at least partially, because the state’s COVID-19 transmission rate is once again exceeding the key figure of 1. That means that Every newly infected person is now transmitting the virus to at least one other person.
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Meanwhile, when President Donald Trump pushes schools in the United States to reopen in the fall, Murphy has already announced that New Jersey schools will have individual classes, albeit with restrictions. The state asked districts to come up with their own reopening plans.
Murphy was asked during Thursday’s “Chat Box With David Cruz” program about parents’ concerns about returning students as the virus is still present.
“Our bias is to go back to school this fall,” he said. “There is a huge thirst for that. But we will not do it at health risk nor will we do it in an irresponsible way. “
“I can’t tell you now what Labor Day looks like,” added the governor. “But our bias and our hope is to return to school responsibly.”
New Jersey on Thursday reported 28 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and 354 new positive tests.
The state of 9 million people has reported 15,448 known virus-related deaths, 13,501 laboratory-confirmed and 1,947 probable, with 174,270 known cases in just over four months since its first case was announced on March 4.
Authorities on Thursday reported 28 new deaths related to the virus and 354 new cases.
Meanwhile, more than 1.3 million Garden State residents have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, according to new numbers released Thursday.
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Brent johnson can be reached in [email protected].
Sophie Nieto-Muñoz can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow her on @snietomunoz.