Forget about not being a “knucklehead.”
Today, Phil Murphy urged residents not to be “selfish” and to follow pandemic-related rules and regulations. That means wear masks and most especially, self-quarantine if you have visited a COVID-19 “hot spot,” which these days can include most of the country. The governor, in fact, said that one “selfish person” can ruin everything for many. Wearing a mask prevents asymptomatic people from spreading the disease to others.
Murphy took this tone at his regular briefing because the state’s rate of transmission has now crept up to 1.03 percent. This calculates the number of individuals one person with the virus will infect on average. For the last few weeks, the infection rate has been less than one, which means that a person with COVID-19 probably infected no one.
But now the infection rate is slightly above one, which the governor said was an “early warning sign.”
And the culprit seems to be people who visited other states.
He said 12 of 13 Hoboken residents recently getting the virus apparently just came back to New Jersey from elsewhere. Additionally, a number of people in Sussex and Warren counties now have the virus after attending a wedding in South Carolina, where COVID-19 is spiking.
“This thing is brutal, folks,” the governor said.
Murphy announced the quarantine about a week or so ago. Electronic signs on state highways tell motorists to call 511 for information about it. But in truth, the state has little power of enforcement here. It’s not as if state troopers are going to stop people at the border and demand to know where they have been.
So highlighting the problem may be the only option.
On that score, the governor focused on a police report from over the weekend about nearly 500 people drinking and dancing outside and inside a bar and restaurant in Burlington County. Indoor gatherings of that type are still prohibited. He said such activity is exactly why the virus is spiking in places like Florida, Texas and Arizona.
Murphy took some political heat last week when he delayed reopening indoor dining on July 2 as planned. It was clear today, he has no second thoughts about that.
Looking to future reopenings, the governor said. “We’re not going to be jumping the gun.” That sounds like “don’t hold your breath.”
Tomorrow is primary day and it’s going to be a strange one. Most voting is by mail, but one polling place in each town will be open as a back-up. Still, Murphy said it pained him to say it, but if people are not feeling well or are in quarantine, they should not vote at the polls.
Keep in mind that mail-in ballots can be sent in as late as tomorrow, election day. One problem is that some voters still have not gotten ballots. The virus poses a challenge for everyone, but at the same time, county clerks have the obligation to send ballots to all.
In a sign things are getting back to normal, notwithstanding the rise in transmission rate, Murphy said that beginning this week his update briefings will be held Monday, Wednesday and Friday as opposed to every weekday. At the start of the pandemic, the governor also held briefings on weekends.
So, this can be normalcy returning or maybe Murphy is just getting tired of meeting so frequently with reporters.