(Trenton) — There are enough reporters covering NJ Gov Phil Murphy’s daily COVID-19 press briefing that I could probably skip it. But that’s a cop out and so here we are in Trenton amplifying the Governor’s message to NJ residents: chiefly stay home and wash your hands.
Murphy does most press events inside Trenton’s cavernous War Memorial Theater nowadays, a nod to social distancing. Nobody touched or shook hands today and everybody sat very far apart.
For what it’s worth, there’s a lot of gratitude in my own Twitter bubble for Murphy’s leadership thus far. This comforts me because I live here too.
Death Toll Rises
According to NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli there were “736 New Cases” of COVID-19 in NJ over the past 24 hours bringing NJ’s total to 4400 confirmed cases.
Tragically, there were 18 deaths in the past 24 hours.
In total, “we have 62 deaths related to COVID-19” in NJ Commissioner Persichilli said.
To mitigate the rising body county, Governor Murphy cited three pending FEMA field hospitals (one in each region) that would add another 1000 beds.
One will be in Seacacus, another in Edison, the third in Atlantic City.
”This will expand hospital capacity in the short term,” the Gov said.
The Gov thanks President Trump, FEMA, and the Army Corps for their cooperation.
Murphy appears to have sized up Trump’s fragile, colossal ego and decided that the best way to get what NJ needs is to kiss Trump’s ass.
I zoned out contemplating resources going to one state over another simply because one governor managed to be more obsequious than the next. Everything flows through Trump’s ego, even during a deadly pandemic.
Apparently that was too gruesome to contemplate and snapped me back to attention.
Hospital capacity expansion is main focus, Murphy kept stressing.
“We will ensure that we are prepared. We will not be left scrambling,” the Governor said before tightening the screws on NJ’s already strict COVID-19 protocols.
Childcare centers will now only serve children of essential workers, further adding to the mountain of disruption and sacrifice that already exists.
Not everyone has a nice big house with a yard and I wonder who else at this press conference can relate to that. Not everybody likes their spouse or the folks they’ll be cooped up with indefinitely.
And plenty of people don’t have a home where they feel safe.
Governor goes on to thank NJ’s Congressional delegation for their advocacy during stimulus negotiations.
Highlights of the pending Federal stimulus package, per Gov Murphy:
- Extension of unemployment insurance
- a $150B coronavirus relief fund.
- 100b for hospitals
- 15b for food stamps.
- $45b for FEMA
- $3.5b for healthcare grants.
- $25b for transit.
That all sounds great and almost generous but how much of that’s coming back to NJ? And what’s the time table? (Hint: not fast enough!)
Gov Murphy said he spoke with VP Pence, who chairs the White House COVID Taskforce, about a disaster declaration today and their chat went well Murphy said.
As luck would have it, I spent the morning passing out needle exchange kits to homeless heroin users. So contemplating Pence, gatekeeper during a pandemic, made me shudder.
If his track record as Governor counts, Pence is uniquely unqualified to head our nation’s corona response.
“When confronted with a spiraling HIV outbreak in his home state (of Indiana) as a result of opioid addicts sharing contaminated needles, Pence dragged his feet before agreeing to lift a ban on programs that distribute sterile needles.”
Rage was gobbling all my bandwidth at this point but I tuned back in to hear the governor underscore the “desperate need for personal (safety) equipment.”
Running out of stuff like ventilators and safety gear for medical professionals is mind-blowing.
And it’s about to happen and it’s gonna be ugly.
“It takes a village,” Governor Murphy added reassuringly.
Hoping to stir some hope Murphy invoked NJ Pandemic Relief Fund, a 501c3, launched yesterday. Something similar popped up after hurricane Sandy to raise money for those most displaced and in need.
Governor Murphy goes on to thank Merck, the pharmaceutical company, for donating 400,000 masks to NJ stockpile.
Gov then called supermarket workers who are “frontline workers in their own right” and he’s right.
Mostly he wants people to stay home.
”We are not making polite suggestions,” urging residents to report businesses that violate his Gov’s executive order to close.
Summons went out yesterday in Ocean and Union County for violations, the Gov added.
Why? Because these are not polite suggestions.
“We’ll remain on the battlefield” for as long as necessary to “flatten the curve” and to “save lives.”
“We will fight to the death to save lives,” Gov. concluded.
Times like these are precisely when need a smartly-tuned centralized Federal government to step up and we don’t have that. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Have you seen one of Trump freewheeling, deception-filled COVID updates lately?
I have. And Trump’s an embarrassing contrast to the thoughtful, sobering approach NJ Governor Phil Murphy showed today.
In the absence if coherent message and strategy at the federal level, governors from both parties have stepped in to fill the void. Murphy, along with Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Larry Hogan (R-MD) deserve praise for their leadership as the casualties mount.
Jay Lassiter in an award-winning writer, podcaster, and videographer who’s probably on Twitter sharing cat memes.