New Jersey is not Texas just in case you had any doubt.
Texas’ just-announced plan to “open-up” and to do away with mandatory mask wearing drew a predictable response today from Gov. Phil Murphy.
“I’m stunned. I don’t know what these states are looking at,” he said.
A short time later, the governor said he “can’t fathom” completely opening up now and that plans to do so elsewhere take his breath away.
“Maybe it’s politics,” he offered.
From the beginning of the pandemic just about a year ago now, Republicans and conservatives have been less amenable than Democrats to pandemic-driven regulations.
The governor acknowledged that things are getting better, adding that, “We’d like to do more on restaurants.”
Indoor dining is now at 35 percent capacity. But even if capacity limits are raised, Murphy said it won’t rise to 100 percent and masks will still be needed.
Unlike some other elected officials, Murphy said, “I can’t conceive of lifting a mask mandate inside.”
Apart from reacting to what’s happening around the country, the calendar had the governor in a reflective mood.
People probably don’t need any reminder, but March is the one-year anniversary of Covid’s arrival in New Jersey; the first documented case was March 4 of last year.
So much has happened over the last 12 months, it’s tough to know where to start.
The governor said New Jersey, the country and even the world was “in the dark” last year about the impact of the virus.
He then offered comments that weaved between recapping what the state has done and saluting the public for accepting responsibility.
“We have asked a lot of you,” he admitted.
Murphy said that in his public comments, he has tried to be candid, but also optimistic.
As of today, more than 800,000 New Jerseyans have tested positive for the virus and a bit more than 21,000 have died from it.
Of those who perished, Murphy said he has eulogized 470 of them at what now have been 169 Covid briefings. His custom is to highlight the lives of three Covid victims at the briefings. The governor also uses the briefings to make announcements, give updates and to take questions from the press. The briefings certainly have raised Murphy’s visibility in a state that may not have known him very well 12 months ago.
People know him now.