New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy was a guest on SiriusXM Business Radio’s “Wharton Business Daily” and spoke with show host Dan Loney about today’s CDC mask mandate, America’s vaccination levels and the delta variant risk to the economy, as well as New Jersey’s plans for its schools, come this fall. Gov. Murphy also discussed New Jersey’s economy, small businesses and efforts to bring them back to New Jersey.
Gov. Murphy: All those concerns are rightful. I was asked in an interview earlier today, what’s the appetite for stricter guidelines. And my answer is there isn’t. People rightfully have had it. Having said that, we got to do the right thing and we will. There’s one other angle Dan, which is worth noting, unlike at some other points in this awful pandemic, and again, I’m awaiting our health officials review of the CDC guidance and that plays a huge factor in how we put our own protocols in place, as you can imagine. But we are in a country right now where one size may not fit all. I mentioned that we are the most vaccinated, big state. We’re one of the most vaccinated states period. And that includes states with a lot fewer people than we have, like Vermont and Hawaii and Maine all great states, but smaller scale. You’ve got other states that are a fraction of where we are in terms of their vaccination rates. So we have to factor that in as well. We’ve got millions of people who have done the right thing, from moment one in this pandemic, whether it’s getting tested, masking, now getting vaccinated, and your point is a good one. The economy, the variant is a big risk to the economy. It’s particularly for those who are unvaccinated, but also health protocols throw a curve ball into the recovery. There’s just no question about it. Again, if we have to do it to save lives, we’re going to do it. Public health creates economic health, not the other way around. But there’s rightful concern and rightful frustration.
Host, Dan Loney: What can be done, do you think at this point to increase vaccination levels? And I know businesses themselves are looking at this issue of whether to mandate vaccinations for people being back in the office, or then you would have to be tested if you didn’t. There’s a lot of kind of ideas on the table and I’m wondering if at some point, do local state governments have to get involved in this process?
Gov. Murphy: Yeah, you have to keep that on the table. I know New York City and California have taken steps in that direction. How do we get people more vaccinated, putting mandates aside for a second? We are screaming the facts out as loudly as we can, which is, you know, we’ve got 400 and something people in the hospital right now. I’d venture to say, Dan, literally this is statistically empirically proven 99.99% likelihood that they’re all un-vaccinated. So we’re screaming that out. People who are dying now for the most part are un-vaccinated and folks need to understand that that’s one. Two, we’ve got some contests that we’ve had that have paid dividends. Free pass to our state parks for the balance of the year, was a big one.. but I’ll tell you what the real weapon has been for us other than screaming the truth out, because there are a lot of people who have legitimate reasons they’re not vaccinated yet. We go door to door. Today we’re in 33 different communities, literally slogging door to door. And putting aside folks who are listening to myths, spewed by talking heads or on social media, there are folks who may not speak English. They may be concerned that their immigration status will be held against them (it won’t be by the way), that the vaccination costs a lot of money, it’s free. They work multiple jobs. They’re not aware of the almost 1500 locations that we have and which one is closest to them. So it’s a grind. We’ll stay at it. We cannot relent, and again, we’ve made a lot of progress.
Can We Expect To See New Jersey’s Schools Open Fully, This Fall? – New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, Weighs In
Gov. Murphy: It is. So I could stop there, but I’ll give you a little bit more color, but that is our expectation that we’ll be back Monday through Friday, full day, as close to normal as we can be. We put that guidance out at the end of June. The health protocols are a recommendation from us and we’ve got one attribute which has been a secret weapon during this awful pandemic. And that is, we don’t have one monolithic school district, like a New York City or a Philadelphia so we’ve got over 600 of them. So we’ll be back in school Monday through Friday, full bore. These are our health protocol recommendations, but if you in a local district have a certain reality that’s inconsistent with the reality elsewhere you have the right to be stricter than that. Having said all that, Dan, we have to remember the virus dictates the terms here. The CDC is rumored to be coming out with new masking mandates today. We”ll try to stay out ahead of this as best we can. We’ll make our decisions based on the facts, but we reserve the right, we have to, to tweak the guidance.
New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, Offers An Update On New Jersey’s Economy, As The COVID-19 Pandemic Continues
Gov. Murphy: The headline, Dan, is the economy is snapping back quite well. God knows we needed. 30% of our small businesses went under, 2 million people filed for unemployment insurance, several hundred thousand of them, more than once, but between an incentives package, I signed in January, our budget, the American Rescue Plan money, the prospect of anything on infrastructure, we’re the densest, most densely populated state in America. We are snapping back nicely. There are a couple of risks. The biggest one is the Delta variant. This is now a pandemic among the unvaccinated. We’re among the most vaccinated states in America. We are in fact, the most vaccinated, big state in America, but there are still too many people for whatever reason, some legitimate, some not, who are not vaccinated. And that means that we’re exposed, they’re exposed but that means the overall public health and economic health of the state is exposed. And then secondly, the other risk or other reality, which I think you’re seeing around the country and we’re no exception is the labor market is having a hard time catching up with the recovery, given how steep the recovery is. So those are a couple of the factors that we’re watching like a hawk and God willing we’re able to continue the progress we’ve made over the past few months.
New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, Talks About Small Businesses & Efforts To Bring Them Back To New Jersey
Gov. Murphy: Since the pandemic started New Jersey. I don’t want to overstate this, but we are top five state per capita of getting money to small businesses, not per capita as in population, but per capita in terms of weighted by the amount of small businesses. And that’s not by accident. We are a state that screams out small business. 60% of our employment is from small businesses. And particular segments have been particularly crushed. Restaurants, bars, hospitality so getting them back on their feet, getting them back to par, if you will, whether it’s through the public health guidelines or putting literally cash on the barrel with grants or loans, we’re going to stay at that. We then separately want to make sure the environment for small businesses and startups is as good as it can be. We just jumped 10 places in a business environment annual poll, but we’re still not where we want to be or need to be. I mentioned the incentives package I signed in January, big emphasis on startup, venture capital, mainstream businesses in that. So you think when you hear incentives, you think big real estate developments or big large corporations. There’s some of that, but there’s a lot more directed at mainstream and startups.