Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro

Star-Ledger – A fired-up Gov. Phil Murphy insisted Tuesday that more progress needs to be made in New Jersey’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic before the state lifts additional restrictions and reopens nonessential businesses, regardless of those lobbying for a faster plan as Memorial Day nears.

While hundreds of thousands of residents have filed for unemployment — with many struggling to get help from the state — and countless closed businesses lose revenue, Murphy said he doesn’t have a “magic date” or a timeline for removing more of the near-lockdown restrictions that have been in place for more than seven weeks.

That, the governor said, is because COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in New Jersey, one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots, and social distancing remains the best tool to fight the virus’ spread.

“I’m sorry we can’t give you more definitive guidance yet,” Murphy said during his daily coronavirus press briefing in Trenton. “We still have people getting sick, going to the hospitals, and sadly more than 300 we’re reporting (today) have died. So with all due respect, this is the fight of our lives.”

“We gotta do it right,” he added. “We’ve got to do it responsibly, we’ve got to do it safely, and we are committed to that … frankly, whether you like that or not.”

The governor did say he continues to evaluate whether nonessential businesses could operate with curbside pickup, similar to eateries that are allowed to stay open.

“I can’t give you a date, but that’s something clearly we’re looking at,” Murphy said.

Murphy took his first major step toward lifting the lockdown this past weekend when he allowed state and county parks, as well as golf courses, to reopen with restrictions.

But he said Tuesday “indoor activity is more complicated.”

“Indoor activity with proper social distancing is something we hope we can get to sooner than later,” the governor added. “I can’t marry myself to when.”

Murphy on Tuesday highlighted promising trends of lower hospital rates and touted that no states have “flattened the curve as mightily as New Jersey.”

But he also emphasized that more than 5,000 residents are still hospitalized with COVID-19, and state officials Tuesday reported another 334 deaths attributed to the illness.

New Jersey has now had 8,244 coronavirus deaths, with 130,593 cases, since the start of the outbreak in early March. Only New York has more deaths and cases among American states.

Murphy apologized for his decision to close New Jersey schools for the rest of the academic year. And he said he appreciated “all the input and the wisdom on beaches” he’s received from people with Memorial Day — the unofficial start to summer — less than three weeks away.

But, he said, the state is consulting with medical experts to decide how to reopen the state based on science and data.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Monday that Murphy should allow other businesses to reopen by Memorial Day, as long as they safely follow social-distancing guidelines.

“The governor has done a very good job of flattening the curve,” Sweeney said. “Now we have to start moving forward with the economy. There are other businesses that we’ve got to start opening up.”

And other lawmakers agree.

“Now it’s time to pivot to a sense of hope and to a plan to avoid the complete destruction of our economy, which would be as bad as the health crisis,” state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said in response to Murphy’s comments Tuesday.

“I’m talking to business people and residents every day who are demoralized and are made more demoralized by the governor’s failure to pivot his rhetoric,” O’Scanlon added.

Former Gov. Chris Christie also voiced support for reopening across the country, despite projections of thousands of more deaths in America.

“Of course, everybody wants to save every life they can. But the question is: Towards what end, ultimately?” Christie, a Republican, said during a CNN podcast interview. “Are there ways that we can … thread the middle here to allow that there are going to be deaths, and there are going to be deaths no matter what?”

Asked about Christie’s comments, Murphy said he “only saw a couple of headlines” on what his predecessor said. But Murphy, a Democrat, said he, too, wants the state safely “up and running again.”

”No one wants that to happen more than I do,” he added. “But we’ve got to do that right. … We are not out of the woods here. I think we have flattened the curve … but we’re still not in the end zone.”

Murphy has created a commission to come up with a broader reopening plan. He has said there are a few conditions the state must meet: Coronavirus numbers need to drop for 14 days and officials need to put more widespread testing, as well as contact tracing and isolation programs, in place.

District Offices

Gloucester County

Kingsway Commons
935 Kings Highway, Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086
Phone: (856) 251-9801
Fax: (856) 251-9752


Salem/Cumberland Counties

The Finlaw Building
199 East Broadway, Suite G
Salem, NJ 08079
Phone: (856) 339-0808 or
             (856) 455-1011
Fax: (856) 339-9626