“There’s no lapse of judgment here.”
So said Gov. Phil Murphy today as he used his regular briefing to explain the circumstances that prompted him to self quarantine.
This issue began Wednesday when Murphy suddenly left an event in Camden County after being told an associate he had been with last weekend, Mike Delamater, a deputy chief of staff, had tested positive for COVID-19. Later, it was learned that another close advisor, Dan Bryan, also had tested positive for the virus.
The governor said neither he, nor his wife, Tammy, have COVID-19, but that he will be tested again Saturday and Monday and will “stay off the field” – Murphy is fond of sport analogies – until early next week. Today’s briefing was conducted virtually with the governor at his home in Monmouth County.
Murphy’s comment about no lapse of judgment came in response to a question about the circumstances of his interaction with Delamater.
He said he was with a small group Saturday night at Pilsener Haus & Biergarten in Hoboken, which as the name suggests, replicates a German beer garden. The governor said pandemic or not, he likes getting around the state.
“We’re outside having a beer,” the governor explained, adding that the group arrived wearing masks and kept them on until beverages arrived. He said Delamater was there for only about 15 minutes at the end of the event.
Murphy said their interaction was so brief, it would not be defined as “close contact.” State health officials say that for virus transmission purposes, “close contact,” is defined as being within 6-feet of someone for at least 15 minutes.
Still, the governor said he opted to self-quarantine to be safe.
“We’re not about cutting any corners here,” said Murphy, who reminded the audience that he did undergo surgery earlier this year to remove a tumor on his kidney.
Doug Steinhardt, the chair of the state Republican Party, issued a statement Wednesday night calling on the governor to explain the circumstances of his exposure. Whether Murphy’s comments today are satisfactory for Steinhardt remains to be seen.
In the more general vein, Murphy described the latest COVID figures as “not pretty” and “sobering.”
He announced 1,182 new cases and 18 confirmed deaths.
These numbers remain far below the peak of the virus last spring. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that up until recently, the daily count of new cases and deaths have been holding steady at less than 1,000 and in single-digits respectively.
Amid it all, the governor said he was glad he made this year’s election very much a mail-in and drop-box event.
He said he doesn’t want to imagine what virus stats would look like if people were jamming in together at the polls.