NEWARK – It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but a vaccine center opening these days is time for a political celebration.
We saw that today as the governor, the mayor, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and others crowded into the athletic facility at New Jersey Institute of Technology this morning to watch shots go into arms.
The group of touring officials spent only about 15 minutes or so talking to staff and patients, but Gov. Phil Murphy had no trouble sizing things up.
“This thing is the gorilla,” he said. Later, he called it a “machine.”
His point is that the sprawling center has the capabilities to vaccinate at least 6,000 people a day. And with some polls suggesting that people of color are hesitant to get the vaccine, Murphy seemed particularly pleased the center is in Newark.
So was Mayor Ras Baraka, who noted the gloomy, overcast weather, but added, “This is a great day.”
But we can’t forget the customary – and over-the-top compliments – such events always produce.
Baraka said Murphy was the best governor in the nation.
Not to be outdone, Murphy said Baraka was one of the best mayors in the nation. A few weeks ago, of course, he said very much the same thing about Mayor Brian Stack during a similar event in Union City.
Sherrill added a bit more substance, saying that it is the American Rescue Plan that funds such centers. She also complimented the Biden Administration for running way ahead of its original goal to vaccinate a million people a day.
Appearing a few hours later at his COVID briefing, the governor was a bit less exuberant.
He displayed charts predicting some of the best and worst case scenarios in the months ahead. In the absolute worst case, the state would see 8,000 new cases a day beginning in mid-May.
What’s more likely, however, is for new COVID cases to hover around the current 3,000 a day.
“My gut tells me we’re in for the moderate reality,” he said.
Admitting that it’s unknown what the months ahead will bring, the governor confidently said the state is in better shape today than it was a year ago.
As more and more people are vaccinated every day, the governor was asked again about a so-called vaccine passport.
Murphy said he’s open-minded about passports, but that guidance has “to come from the feds and the CDC.”
The November election is now just about seven months away.
That’s relevant because of a Stockton University poll that put the governor’s approval rating at 58 percent. His rating has dipped a bit, but it’s been very strong since the pandemic began and the governor started popping up regularly on television.
Things can change, but this shows the challenge for Republicans, who already face a state voter registration disadvantage of about 1.1 million.
Asked his reaction, Murphy, as was to be expected, said this is not the time for politics.
But he did joke that the pollster must have surveyed his family.