No, protestors really weren’t burning masks outside Phil Murphy’s Middletown home over the weekend. But it may have sounded that way.
The governor probably raised many virtual eyeballs at his Monday briefing when he spoke of a “Burn Your Mask” rally outside his Middletown home. Later, he explained that no masks were set aflame although “Burn your Masks” was the name of the rally.
He shrugged it off as something that has happened before during the pandemic.
This, not surprisingly, prompted the governor to say once again that wearing a mask adheres to both common sense and medical science. Murphy said last week that all must wear masks outside if social distancing is not impossible, but there are a lot of exceptions, including specific health conditions, very young children, members of the same family and those playing sports.
But he said today that, “Your political affiliation is not an underlying” exemption.
This may seem like a bizarre clarification, but in a testament to the strident feelings of the day, wearing, or not wearing, a mask almost has become some sort of a political litmus test.
Donald Trump wore a mask in public for the first time over the weekend, but it’s clear he wasn’t happy about it. He also has repeatedly downplayed the severity of COVID-19, and likely will continue to do so.
So there you have the political fault lines.
The governor also related a conversation he had over the weekend with a young man who was “pleading” on behalf of his mother for him (Murphy) to allow indoor dining. That was expected to resume on July 2, but Murphy changed course.
“We can’t risk losing more lives,” the governor said today.
Twenty two more deaths from the virus were announced today bringing the statewide total to 13,613.
Pausing indoor dining has drawn criticism simply because New Jersey continues to do well combatting the virus, certainly when compared to other states. For example, the state’s infection rate is now less than 1 percent again after ticking above 1 percent last week.
Still, Murphy said he worries that people coming from other states – mostly Florida – may bring the virus with them. There’s also the fact the virus spreads quicker inside.
“One solution is to not jump the gun,” he said. That sounds like indoor dining is still a ways off.
The governor was asked if he takes solace from the fact New Jersey has made definitive progress fighting the virus.
Noting that we must be concerned about human suffering in other states and the risk of a surge here, Murphy said, “Solace may not be the right word.”