During his daily coronavirus briefings, Phil Murphy normally has stayed with the facts at hand and avoided over-the-top rhetoric.
But today, the governor briefly veered from that playbook when he said, “there’s a special place in hell” for those who use the pandemic to lash out at ethnic and religious groups.
Bias crimes in general have been pushing upward over the last few years, so it’s no surprise a medical crisis makes things even worse.
A few days ago, the governor mentioned – without specifics – discriminatory actions against Asian-Americans. As we all know, the virus originated in China.
Today, he talked about internet postings apparently suggesting that Jews bear responsibility for spreading the virus. He didn’t elaborate about the postings.
The launch point for this were reports Wednesday that police had to break up a wedding and another large gathering in Lakewood. Both events violated the state’s regulations to maintain social distancing
and not to assemble en mass State authorities did not identify the ethnic background of the individuals involved.
But it’s hardly a secret that Lakewood has a large orthodox Jewish community.
As Murphy put it, this encourages bigots to connect the dots and to lash out.
The governor said religious and ethnic bullying never should be tolerated and that all bias incidents will be investigated. And he pointed out that the majority of Lakewood residents are complying with social distancing.
On a more upbeat note, Murphy said there is evidence fewer residents are violating social distancing edicts. He praised residents for that.
And he made a comparison with Kentucky where he said there are reports of some people holding Corona beer parties. He said if that happens here, police will break them up.
If anyone still questions the need for all this, today’s statistics were sobering.
There were 2,492 new cases of the virus in New Jersey from Wednesday to Thursday. That amount, which is by far the largest of any day, raises the total number of cases in the state to 6.876. Eighty one
people have died, including 19 in the last 24 hours.
The governor regularly notes that some of this is because of increased testing. The point is that without testing, people would still have the virus, but health officials wouldn’t know about it.
That’s a fair point but it doesn’t negate the sad fact cases are rising rapidly.
And as the governor said in urging continued compliance with regulations, “Please think of others around our state.”