Gov. Phil Murphy: A Clear Understanding
Talking face-to-face with the Governor

No matter who you talk to these days, conversations often end up on the topic of the state’s response to Covid. And it’s usually easy to see that not everyone agrees with what the Governor is doing, while some love it. 

What matters most, though, is that we all have a clear understanding of what his specific directives are, what his thought process is, and his motivation. That is why SJ Magazine’s Marianne Aleardi sat down with Gov. Phil Murphy over Zoom to talk about the past few months. 

Watch the full interview here.

Here are some excerpts from the video transcript.


On indoor dining

We thought we would get there by July 2, and it gives me no joy that we weren’t able to allow it then. We opened the state up systematically, methodically, step-by-step so we could measure the impact of each reopening. We’ve been watching the rate of which people tested for the virus are testing positive, and saw that it was getting a little higher than we’d like. We started to see and accept that the virus spreads more dramatically indoors than outdoors. There’s a lack of ventilation, you’re sitting in close proximity to others, and you have to take your mask off to eat or drink. That’s a tough combination. 

We’ve noticed that the flare-ups in cases across the country have come almost entirely because of indoor activity, and we decided it wasn’t right to allow indoor dining.


On bars 

When things do open, people will need to expect a capacity limitation. We’ll have to make a very strong distinction that if you order a drink at dinner, you can have it at your table. But if you order a drink from the bar, you can’t congregate inside the bar. I could see us sitting 6 feet apart at a bar sometime. But standing around with your drink is not going to happen anytime soon.  

I think we will get there. I want it to happen, believe me. But I don’t want to put people’s lives at risk.


On looking to other states

Seeing states that were trending upward alongside us start to backslide, like California, tells me that we were probably right to not have gone further in our opening, even though it’s incredibly painful, particularly to small businesses. The biggest lesson we’ve learned from that is to stay outdoors for as much of our activities as possible, as long as the weather allows us, in addition to social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing our hands.


On going back to school

What’s going to be important for me as governor is that districts abide by the broad parameters we put out a few weeks ago of specific things we want schools to pay attention and adhere to. Just as when we closed schools, we asked districts to submit their plan of what online and remote education would look like, we’re doing the same thing now – asking districts to come back under those parameters. One example is we are asking schools to provide a hot reliable meal – too many kids in our state rely only on school for their meals.


On remote learning

We’re in a better position now than in the spring. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to find the money to close the digital divide, which was a huge concern when we closed the schools. While we were remote, we had too many kids who didn’t have access to either a device or the internet. We’ve found the money to solve that riddle. Remote learning will also be an option, which will reduce capacities of kids in the classroom.


On the new normal in schools

Decisions aren’t yet final, but I’m confident our districts will come up with social distancing capacity restrictions any moment now. My guess is there will be a fair amount of face coverings and perhaps staggered schedules. The big thing is not letting the virus travel from the asymptomatic, healthy, younger person to an older educator or administrator or someone with underlying health conditions. 

It’s a combination of a lot of different factors to make sure we do this responsibly. My goal is to get kids back to something that looks normal. But we want to do it right, and we want to do it with the public health in mind.


Watch Gov. Murphy’s interview with Marianne Aleardi:

August 2020
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