TRENTON, NJ – On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told residents of the state, “Do not travel”.
This ominous message comes one day before Election and just three days before his next COVID-19 briefing where many analysts and pundits are predicting the Governor could announce new some form of new sweeping lockdown measures to combat the increase in COVID-19 positives in the state.
“Q comes before T in the sense that if you have traveled or if you’ve had a known exposure, you’ve got a quarantine. Then give it a number of days until the virus is incubated,” Murphy said. “We’re just asking people if you don’t have to travel, just flat out don’t travel, period.”
The governor suggests that other than traveling out of state for work or other essential business, residents should just stay put.
His words were echoed by New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichili.
“There’s so much widespread disease, don’t travel if you don’t need to,” Persichili said. “That’s the safest situation, not only for yourself but for people you come in contact with. But we do kick the tires, we’re looking at the travel advisory every week and we’ll make changes as we need to but right now, don’t travel.”
Murphy, who started October claiming he will not use sweeping measures such as a second statewide lockdown, but instead a “scalpel” to target hot spots has been slowly walking back on his earlier position. Last week, Murphy told reporters all options are now on the table and acknowledged the “second wave” of COVID-19 has arrived. This week, Germany, where Murphy previously served as ambassador implemented a 9 pm curfew and closure of bars, indoor dining and non-professional sports. France and Italy have also announced lockdowns.
“After eight months, I understand, we understand, that we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue but this virus has been waiting for us to get lax in our personal responsibilities so that it can come roaring back,” Murphy said. “And in particular, we’re seeing many of the new cases linked to small gatherings in private homes, where folks are more apt to let their guard down, especially in not social distancing. We urge you — please, folks, I urge you — to get back to that level of vigilance that you showed six months ago so that we could beat back this second wave. And in return, I commit to you, as a state, we are ready for it.”
Murphy said, despite his efforts to keep the state open, there’s a chance New Jersey can reenter a more aggressive lockdown scenario.
“I continue to believe, that there is not a blunt instrument, statewide step that we believe would effectively chop these numbers back down. I mean, we look at capacities by example, regularly; that’s something we’ll continue to look at. And that’s obviously we leave everything on the table. I don’t have a number for you as to where that would change. But, you know, clearly, not just jumps in numbers, but meaningful jumps in positivity or rates of transmission or hospitalizations,” Murphy said.
Last week, Newark reinstated a city-wide COVID-19 curfew. Mayor Ras Baraka’s decision was applauded by Governor Murphy. Similar dining and bar curfews have been enacted in Paterson and Hoboken since Newark’s decision was announced.
The governor has also announced that he has put the brakes on his road to reopening New Jersey, saying restaurant capacity will not increase from its current cap of 25%. As the weather gets colder and winter edges its way into the Garden State, restaurants already hurting from the first round of closures and the ongoing cap limit on indoor dining could face more financial hardship. Another closure could be the final nail in the coffin of thousands of New Jersey small businesses.
Pundits suspect Murphy is holding any announcement of a new lockdown until after polls close for the 2020 election.