Mar 21, 2020
NJ Governor Phil Murphy Coronavirus Update Transcript March 21: “Stay at Home” Order Issued
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy provided a March 21 COVID-19 press conference update. He ordered all NJ residents to “stay at home” and all non-essential businesses to close at 9 pm tonight. Read the full transcript of his news conference.
Phil Murphy: (00:00)
Oh my guess is we’re looking at several hundred a day, would be my guess. We are still on track to open the PNC Bank Arts Center site on Monday morning at 8:00 AM. And again, I want to give the team a huge shout out for their support there. I’m going to go swing by that on the way home after this just to look at it with my own eyes, and look at the preparedness.
Phil Murphy: (00:26)
I know Judy will give you an update, not just on her perspective on testing, but also as it relates to the ongoing deliberations with the Army Corps on reopening wings, reopening hospitals, looking at repurposing other facilities. This morning we received notification of 442 new positive test results. That brings our total to 1,327. Judy, as usual, will give more detail. Particularly of the demographics and regional characterizations of those new tests, as well as five additional COVID-19 related deaths, which brings our total amount of deaths to 16, God rest their souls. We keep each of their memories, and their families in our prayers, and please join us in that regard. Again, Judy, we’ll have more detail on both the positive testing and what that looks like, as well as some top line information on the tragic deaths.
Phil Murphy: (01:37)
Again, I want to reiterate something that we’ve said from the get go. The increase in the positive test results is completely expected. And to some extent, you’ve got community spread as an element here, but the overwhelming reason is our aggressive testing posture. We have been ahead of the curve on testing. It’s not perfect, by the way. Trust me, nobody’s patting anybody on the back here, no one’s spiking any footballs, but we have been ahead of the curve on testing, and the numbers will continue to grow significantly. There’s just no other way around that, and that will be many, many thousands. And again, I know this may be counterintuitive to some, but the more data we have, the more information we have, and Judy and her team are experts at this, the more able we will be to break the back of this virus. So the more information we have the better off we will be. Again, these numbers, as we’ve said all along, are going to go up.
Phil Murphy: (02:41)
We started meeting on this literally in January, I think it was Super Bowl Sunday, we put our whole government team… We had a conference call, and put our whole government taskforce in place, led by Judy. We’ve been taking steps along the way. We mourn the tragic loss of life. Let there be no doubt about that. Each and every individual pains us deeply, and that will continue to be the case. But our job right now is several fold. One is to expand the testing as fast as we can. Two is to break the back of that curve. Flatten that curve, and I’ll be addressing that in a moment. Where we have taken aggressive steps, and we will continue to take aggressive steps. And then finally, is to expand our healthcare capacity.
Phil Murphy: (03:28)
We know that flattening the curve will take the pressure off the healthcare system. We just can’t know exactly what the timing looks like, and we are almost certainly going to be in need of every single critical care bed we can find in the state. Which is why Judy and Pat and their teams are so aggressively out working with the Army Corps of Engineers to expand that capacity. Again, these numbers, the positive results are no time, no cause for panic, but they are a sobering reminder of the challenge we are confronting as one New Jersey family. As I’ve said before, while it’s no time to panic, it’s also no time for business as usual. And it is with these individuals, both the precious loved ones who we’ve lost as well as folks who either are positive testing, or will positive test. With all of that clearly in mind that I make the following announcement.
Phil Murphy: (04:25)
This morning I signed an executive order directing nearly all of our 9 million residents to quite simply, stay at home. As I said, we must flatten the curve and ensure residents are practicing social distancing. As I have said before, we can no longer maintain a sense of business as usual during this emergency. And again, I repeat just as it is, no time to panic, but it is time to be smart, proactive, transparent, aggressive. It is also no time for business as usual. And as we work in continued and increasing partnership with our neighboring States in particular New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware, it becomes even more vital that we all speak with one voice. We cannot run the risk of residents from one state simply moving their parties, or their shopping habits across state lines. So under this executive order, all gatherings are canceled until further notice. This means no weddings, in-person services, or even parties. This decision is not an easy one and it pains me that important life moments will not be celebrated in the way we are accustomed to.
Phil Murphy: (05:43)
And I know this will be disappointing to many residents, but my singular goal, our singular goal, not to mention frankly, my job is to make sure we get through this emergency so that you can safely gather with family and friends later, and enjoy many more birthdays, and weddings in the years to come. Any place people congregate, is a place where coronavirus can be spread. This is no time for anyone to be acting selfishly and taking a gathering underground, but this is the time to think about your family, your friends, your neighbors, and to do the right thing. Additionally, I urge those who have homes at the Jersey Shore to not go to them at this time. The local infrastructure, especially the health care infrastructure, and especially in off season, is not prepared for the influx of part-time residents. So there is absolutely no excuse for a party on the beach. Please stay at your primary residences.
Phil Murphy: (06:58)
Further, I am directing all non-essential retail businesses to indefinitely close their physical stores to the public effective at 9:00 PM tonight. Only… By the way, 9:00 PM in particular, out of respect to the Sabbath. Only businesses critical to our response may remain physically open to the public and that is an increasingly limited list. Grocery stores and food banks, pharmacies, medical marijuana dispensaries, medical supply stores, gas stations, auto mechanics and repair services, convenience stores, banks and other financial institutions, hardware and home improvement stores, laundromats and dry cleaners, printing and office supply shops, pet stores, stores that sell supplies for young children, mail and delivery shops, and as we’ve already noted, restaurants, liquor stores and bars providing take out services. Additionally, all essential state, county, and local public health, safety and social services will remain accessible.
Phil Murphy: (08:23)
I want to give a shout out in particular to my partner in government. We made a decision a couple of days ago to divide and conquer. I want a particular tip of the cap to Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. And work at construction sites may continue, as can manufacturing, trucking and transportation operations. That is work that largely cannot be done from home. But aside from the limited exceptions, all retail businesses must close, and all businesses, not just retail, but literally all businesses must move their employees to work from home wherever possible. Further, I signed a second executive order stating clearly that the roles I have laid out supersede all other orders issued by county or municipal officials. We cannot have a patchwork of regulations that change from one town or one county to another. And I’ll repeat what I’ve said over the past couple of days. Folks hearts are in the right place, that’s not the question. But we have got to run this state with one set of rules, and that’s what that second executive order in fact does. We must be on one page, and reading from the same playbook as one state, period.
Phil Murphy: (09:46)
Now even with this order in effect, and the main order I call the stay at home order, I think that’s the right way to think about this. Stay at home. Even with this order in effect, life in New Jersey does not have to come to a complete standstill. Residents can still take a walk, or go for a run outside. We do want people to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. But, and this is a big but, if you do go outside for these activities, or head to the grocery store to some other essential place, we urge everyone. We are not only urging it, we’re ordering everyone to continue practicing social distancing, and to keep a safe, six foot distance between you and others. We cannot have what we’ve seen too often in other states. Again, where we tip our cap to the intentions, but we cannot see people walking right beside each other, business as usual, casually as if nothing is going on here. So if you do go out, you must practice social distancing while you are out. Again six feet is the amount of distance that is broadly recommended.
Phil Murphy: (11:04)
But if you’re not doing what I just said, and go to a grocery store or a pharmacy or taking in some fresh air, at all other times and unless we need you in our response efforts, we need you to just stay at home. At a time when new COVID-19 cases continue to be identified, and they will be in the thousands. And the number of related deaths sadly continue to rise. We have to change our behaviors. As I said from January, we’ve been doing everything we can to aggressively get out ahead of this, and when needed, we have adjusted our approach. And we are adjusting it meaningfully today as of nine o’clock tonight.
Phil Murphy: (11:55)
I said this earlier and I want to reiterate this, I don’t take these measures, we don’t take these measures, lightly, nor do we take them easily. We have considered very carefully every aspect of daily life. We have taken great care to ensure that we would not have to go back, and revise our work. We wanted to make sure we got this right at the first go. We also recognize the impact this order will have on our small businesses who are the backbone of our economy, and the employers of the majority of New Jerseyans. We know this will only add more hurt at a time when you are already immeasurably hurting, but we must take this step to protect our residents, and we remain absolutely committed to working with you to ensure that you have the help and resources you and your employees will need going forward throughout this emergency and beyond.
Phil Murphy: (12:55)
Employees who will be out of work should work through the Department of Labor regarding available benefits. Their best website is nj.gov/labor. Again, any worker who’s out of work, the best place to go is the website, nj.gov/labor. And employers who can continue to pay employees, they are urged to do so because of the benefits available through the recently passed federal response law. In other words, you’re not going to get compensated for an expense that you don’t have. So for many reasons, including helping our workers and their family stay afloat, please do everything you can to keep them on the payroll. This will not be the last time I mention this website today, or probably in the days and weeks ahead. But for employers, there’s a good robust page to, as part of a new website we’ve set up, covid19.nj.gov. I’ll come back to that in a moment. Covid19.nj-
Phil Murphy: (14:00)
The moment covid19.nj.gov. We encourage you to go on there and this is something that we recognize that employees are hurting and employers are hurting and we accept that. We essentially, the group of us here as well as our colleagues, we have only two choices in the broadest sense here. Number one, to let the virus run its course, to not take the steps that we’re taking and ultimately pay a huge price in fatalities and sickness and pay an enormous economic price. That’s one set of choices that has been available to us.
Phil Murphy: (14:45)
From moment one, we have rejected that. Our job collectively is to flatten the curve, break the back of that curve as aggressively and preemptively as possible. That comes with economic pain, enormous economic pain in the here and now, both for employees and employers. But at the end of the day, we will get through this. We know that unequivocally we will get through this. We’ll get through this together and because we’ve taken that set of choices while the economic pain is significant now, we will save many lives.
Phil Murphy: (15:24)
We’ll keep a lot more people healthy and frankly at the end of the day, the economic pain related to what we’re doing will be a lot less consequential than had we let this virus run a muck. Those are the two choices that were before us from day one. We have unequivocally taken choice two and we will continue to do so. That does not mean that we do not understand, appreciate and have enormous sympathy for the pain that this is causing. And I remain absolutely committed along with I think frankly every governor from both sides of the aisle to getting the federal assistance we will need in every form it will be needed.
Phil Murphy: (16:05)
And again, we have been calling out as a region, we believe it’s a $100 billion direct cash assistance requirement for just New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. And so we have been burning up the lines with federal representatives as well as other governors and all sorts of leaders. And I would just say since we were together at our press conference yesterday, I’ve had meaningful conversations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, senators, Menendez and Booker, among others in our congressional delegation, although frankly I think all of them, but direct conversations with Bonnie Watson Coleman, Frank Palone, Donald Payne, Josh Gottheimer, Bill Pascrell with the back George Helmy, and Matt Platkin and I.
Phil Murphy: (16:51)
The back and forth with Chuck Schumer’s offices. I’ve been on the phone directly since yesterday with Governor Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Ned Lamont in Connecticut, Tom Wolfe in Pennsylvania, Jay Inslee in Washington, Gina Raimondo and John Carney back and forth among others. And we are in so many respects in similar circumstances. We need direct federal assistance to allow us to continue to work with those workers, those employers to head the healthcare response, to head the offices of the national guard as they are so nobly called up with the state police in the Office of Homeland Security.
Phil Murphy: (17:35)
The meter is running. We need to continue to be at the point of attack and we need the federal assistance to allow us to do that. May I say something else in a couple of thoughts before I close? We also urge residents to ensure that they are getting their information from reputable media and official governmental sources, from everyone, by the way, as an example here in this room. We know there was a growing amount of disinformation appearing on social media, dire warnings that are meant solely to sow fear and distrust including one especially ominous warning of a coming national lockdown.
Phil Murphy: (18:15)
Please do not feed into this disinformation campaigns of others. You do not help anyone by spreading rumors. So I mentioned this a minute ago, but I want to come back to this. To assist in getting the facts out to the public, we have created a new online information portal, covid19.nj.gov, which is a one stop for answers to frequently asked questions, important information and updates and a list of phone numbers and other available resources. Again, that’s covid19.nj.gov. And I’m grateful in particular to the team at the office of innovation led by our colleague Beth Noveck, who worked in coordination with the private sector partner Yext, which donated its services to help create this vital resource.
Phil Murphy: (19:10)
So tip of the cap to Yext. I’ve mentioned a bunch of private sector players throughout this week and so many of them are stepping up in a big way helping us out. It will take a village. We were with BioReference and LabCorp yesterday. I mentioned Verizon and Comcast and Home Depot earlier in the week and Yext joins that list of all gust private sector partners. Again, in conclusion, I know that the actions we are taking today are strong and they are going to change daily life, but they are absolutely necessary to our ability to stay out ahead of this emergency.
Phil Murphy: (19:50)
This is a time for all of us to come together under one mission to flatten the curve and slow and eventually halt and break the back of the spread of coronavirus. It is not up to someone else to do. No one is immune from coronavirus. Winning this battle and getting life back to normal, even if we are looking at a so-called new normal, will take all of us coming together as the one New Jersey family we are and we always will be. Let’s do this New Jersey. Let’s be smart. Let’s save lives and together, assuming each one of us does our part, we will come through this and we will come through this stronger than ever before.
Phil Murphy: (20:34)
With that, please allow me to turn things over. I think the only other formal speaker today and then in addition after Judy is done, Pat, Jamal and Jared will join Judy and me and answering your questions. Please help me welcome the woman who needs no introduction, the commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli.
Judy Persichilli: (20:51)
Thank you, Governor, and good afternoon. So we certainly understand and appreciate that rising cases of COVID-19 are causing concern. We continue to take every step possible to protect the public health. The aggressive social distancing steps that the governor has put in place are designed to protect you and your loved ones and are intended to prevent further spread. We expect that the spread of the virus can be slowed if we act now and if we act together. In anticipation, however, of the coming surge of patients, the department is working to identify unused inpatient hospital beds that could be brought online in the coming weeks to increase bed capacity.
Judy Persichilli: (21:40)
We know cases are going to increase. We’re working to prepare now to be able to handle medical surgical patients that will need care in the hospital. We’re looking at closed hospitals, as I said yesterday, which would accommodate up to 300 patients each. I want the public to understand we are not developing COVID-19 hospitals. Every hospital in New Jersey is expected to and will be caring for COVID-19 patients or I should say patients who have COVID-19. I want to make that clear. We still are taking care of patients and they happen to have COVID-19. In addition, we want to bring online inactive wings of his existing hospitals that could be used for inpatient capacity. We’re working with the US Army Corps of Engineers and they are prepared to stand up field hospitals, particularly in the southern part of the state where bed space is more limited than in the northern part of the state. We’re also collecting information on longterm care facilities that could take care of patients that are not a COVID-19 patients that are moving from the medical surgical departments in hospitals to clear space for those that are more critically ill.
Judy Persichilli: (23:14)
So far we’ve identified almost 500 beds that are available right now. Another 500 could come online within two weeks and another 400 would take about four to five weeks to get in working order. So that’s a total of almost a thousand beds in the next two weeks and another 1,300 after that. No options are off the table. Efforts to expand bed capacity are critical in emergency preparedness and I want to give a shout out and thank all of the hospital CEOs who are really standing up and partnering with us on this initiative.
Judy Persichilli: (23:55)
As the governor said, we’re announcing 442 new cases for a total of 1,327 cases in the state so far. Sadly, we have had five new deaths reported to the department, a male in his 50s from Monmouth County, a male in his 80s from Essex, a male in his 40s from Bergen County, a female in her 70s from Morris County and a male and his 90s from Bergen County. Our thoughts are with the families. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families. The county breakdown of the new cases are such, Atlantic one, Bergen 113, Burlington four, Camden three, Cape May one, Essex 34, Gloucester three, Hudson 31, 103 Mercer eight, Middlesex 40, Monmouth 39, Morris 28, Ocean 13, Passaic 17, Somerset seven, Sussex three, Union 38, Warren two, and we’re still gathering details on 54 additional cases.
Judy Persichilli: (25:21)
Events are changing quickly and we know that many people are anxious and concerned. We certainly understand that, so we encourage individuals with questions to call 211 or text NJCOVID to 898-211. The department and the local health officials and healthcare providers are literally working around the clock to respond to these cases and to implement efforts to protect the health of New Jersey residents. Thank you.
Phil Murphy: (25:51)
Before we throw it open. May I ask a couple? Just make one statement. I believe this is still the case, although we have a total of 140 unknowns out of our 1,327. Salem County continues to be the one county where we don’t have a reported case, although I’m sure sadly it’s a matter of time, but also it may well be embedded in the unknowns that you’re parsing through. A question that I know has been asked by some of the folks here today, any color on adjacent health issues for any of the five blessed fatalities?
Judy Persichilli: (26:25)
I do not. I do not have any underlying comorbids. I don’t have that information yet. The volume of activity coming into the communicable disease service is a little overwhelming, but they’re, they’re working through it. We will have that. What I do need to tell you is that of the new five, three are from post acute facilities, either longterm care or rehab, so we’re looking very critically at that. As I announced yesterday, that is a concern. So we will be looking at the longterm care facilities and rehab facilities a little bit more.
Phil Murphy: (27:05)
I know you’re going to speak to each of the particular facilities this weekend where those fatalities emanated from.
Judy Persichilli: (27:11)
Phil Murphy: (27:11)
I think one of the things we talked about earlier, hold the space of your consideration of potential steps, even further steps you may want to take with those facilities.
Judy Persichilli: (27:21)
We will be to the degree possible because they are serving a purpose to decant our acute care facilities, particularly those that do skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. But we want to curtail as many admissions as possible to longterm care.
Phil Murphy: (27:38)
I mentioned that I had spoke … Thank you for that. I mentioned I spoke to Governor Inslee yesterday. He was somebody I know well over the years, but in particular it was this particular challenge that they faced I think before anybody in the state of Washington. So thank you for that. And I want to thank Pat, Jamal and Jared to be with us along with Judy and myself to field any questions. John, you win the lottery today because we’re starting, we’re going from right to left. If you’ve got something for us.
Phil Murphy: (28:03)
… starting. We’re going from right to left if you’ve got something for us. Dante has got the microphone.
Speaker 1: (28:06)
Again, very explicitly, what can people actually do under this order? And can you detail the penalties for people who willfully ignore this, the people that are out there now, weeks of already urging them, you’re urging, you’re telling, will they face criminal or civil penalties if they’re out monkeying around?
Phil Murphy: (28:28)
Let me give you a general answer to your question and give you a little bit of how we’ve thought about this. And then, Pat, I’d like you to come in. Let me start with the if folks are monkeying around, we will take action and, and Pat can get into some of the action. In fact, we had a very specific situation last night. We heard rumors on the shore of a town where there was some activity going on, thanks to Pat and his team and working with the local police in that department, in that community, rather, I’ll leave the community nameless, the police went in and made their presence felt. It turns out there was no untoward behavior, but that action was taken.
Phil Murphy: (29:13)
So we have sort of two ways to go here. One way is to be really prescribed about what is on the list, as some other states have done, really prescribed about what is nonessential. We have chosen to be particularly prescribed about what is essential, and I gave you the list of entities and types of venues and types of activities that are essential. Beyond that, folks should assume, certainly in retail, that everything is not essential, and we mean it. And, furthermore, if you are a business that is non- retail, we expect you to immediately go, assuming it’s practicable, to 100% work from home. And we can’t mandate your particular company in terms of how you do that, but we expect you to do that, period. And we’re doing it at the state.
Phil Murphy: (30:18)
I had mentioned last weekend, I think, we can’t expect the private sector to behave in a certain way that we’re not prepared to do so at the state level. And so we are doing that, and we’ve been doing it since last Sunday. Each department, Judy has a unique set of challenges versus Pat versus Jared, for example. But we want to be very clear about what is essential. We want you to assume that everything that’s not on that list is nonessential, and that if you are a business and you make something, or you happen to be a business of any sort that we didn’t ask to be closed down, you’ve got to have 100% work-from-home policies in place, and we expect people to stay home.
Phil Murphy: (30:59)
And I would just say one more wrinkle on this is earlier last week we said if you’re traveling around the state between 8:00 PM and 5:00 AM and you’re not essential, we want you off the roads. We’re basically saying that’s now 24 hours. We don’t want you out there, period. Pat, will you just talk a little bit about how we’re going to enforce this and anyone else who wants to weigh-in?
I will. And I know that yesterday the attorney general hosted a phone call, which the governor and I participated in. The attorney general outlined the guidance, that guidance has been put out, John. It was last week to the degree that all 21 County prosecutors have designated an assistant prosecutor to be on call. The 2C statute, there’s a few different ones, but it’s predominantly a disorderly conduct charge. So when the governor says, “We’ll take action”, we’re at that point.
Last week I know I talked about discretion and that being the greatest tool of law enforcement, but I think we’re beyond that now given the measures that we’ve placed. And I just think if we hadn’t put the measures we did in a couple of weeks ago, where would we be today with the numbers? So that “We’ll take action” is all police departments, all chiefs were advised of what those charging manuals are and where they could find them. And all of law enforcement, including all 21 county prosecutors, are ready to enforce them and prosecute them.
Phil Murphy: (32:29)
Pat, I know when I was laid up [Ga-breir 00:32:32] was here earlier on in one of our gatherings, and particularly as it relates to consumer protection and price gouging, and, unfortunately, we’ve had some examples of that. I’ll just say to my team, getting him back at the table with us, getting his perspective, I think, may be valuable. Dante, please do you have something? Do you have any ma’am?
Speaker 2: (32:52)
Yes. Oh sorry.
Phil Murphy: (32:55)
I should just say a health warning, which I usually have already said by this point, this is a really good microphone for our streaming services, but it doesn’t help us with our own personal audio. So if you could speak up as best you can, that would be great.
Speaker 2: (33:08)
All right. Can you hear me? An analysis from ProPublica recently put the need for hospital beds at a projected 3,000 in Newark over a 12 month period. Is the state taking numbers like that into consideration when they’re identifying how to meet the capacity, and have you identified how you will meet that capacity?
Phil Murphy: (33:37)
So are you saying that ProPublica has identified, just to make sure we repeat the question, 3,000 critical care beds, the projected over the course of the next year?
Speaker 2: (33:45)
In Newark alone.
Phil Murphy: (33:46)
That’s not working, by the way. Over the course of, I’m sorry?
Speaker 2: (33:49)
Over the course of 12 months, the projected need for beds will be over 3,000 in Newark alone.
Phil Murphy: (33:55)
And you’d like our reaction to that as whether or not seeing a similar number and what our plans are?
Speaker 2: (34:00)
Phil Murphy: (34:00)
Thank you. Judy?
Judy Persichilli: (34:02)
Certainly. We’re not done with our predictive modeling. Some of it has to do with us making the right assumptions about how our mitigation interventions would take hold since we put them in a number of weeks ago. We’re looking at the worst case, though, and we want to plan for the worst case. So we’ve done an inventory of all the critical care beds that are currently operating in New Jersey, which are about 2,000. What we’re doing now is looking at, if you’re familiar with hospitals, they have what they call step-down beds, so you go from critical care to a step-down bed. The step-down beds in most hospitals are fully-monitored and can be handled as critical care beds.
Judy Persichilli: (34:49)
We believe that the critical care beds and the step-down beds together will give us enough critical care to handle a moderate surge. So then you’ll ask, “Well, what happens down the road?” You go from critical care to step-down to a medical surgical bed and then you get discharged. You either go to a longterm care facility or a rehab facility or a skilled nursing facility or home care.
Judy Persichilli: (35:15)
That’s what we’re looking at the field hospitals for and opening up hospitals that are currently not available. They’ve been closed within the last five years. That’s where those med-surge patients would go. And we start decanting the whole hospital, keep the critical care nurses, the intensivists that are used to working in that particular hospital, know the IT systems, the monitoring systems, we keep them together with critical care.
Judy Persichilli: (35:44)
So we’re finalizing that, we’ll be available at the beginning of next week. And we believe we will be, with the field hospitals and the opening of closed wings and shuttered hospitals, we think we will be able to handle a moderate increase. If it goes to a more significant increase, we need to be able to adjust critical care.
Judy Persichilli: (36:12)
I’m more concerned, quite frankly, with the availability of the workforce and the availability of ventilators. Since this is a pulmonary disease, it’s hitting the lungs, it’s causing a bad pneumonias, so they’re the two things concurrently we’re working on; workforce with a nursing association and ventilators with aggressive outreach to vendors. And that’s worked on 24-seven, both of those items.
Phil Murphy: (36:48)
May I just, Judy, underscore that? I think the planning, as it relates to hospital beds, is proceeding well, but there’s a long road in front of us. Our healthcare workers, we cannot say enough things about them and the heroism. I was on with one of the union representatives last night, and they have been just stars working under extraordinarily challenging conditions, both for their benefit as well as for the health of the patients who they are caring for. Just to repeat something we’ve said, I think, at every single gathering, we are not remotely where we need to be on personal protective equipment.
Phil Murphy: (37:33)
I think Judy gave a great answer on the beds, and we’re doing everything we can to plan for that, but in the here and now, the so-called PPE, we’re not remotely where we need to be. And we continue to uncover every single stone, both within our own hospital systems, what we can purchase as a state, donations from private sector players. We desperately need another slug from the strategic stockpile, which we continually are asking for from our federal partners. That to me is the here and now, is that fair to say?
Judy Persichilli: (38:08)
Phil Murphy: (38:08)
Both to protect the healthcare workers as well as to treat the patients as best we can. We’re going to go right to left here, my right to left, I should say.
Speaker 3: (38:18)
Good afternoon, governor. I have two questions. So board of education elections were pushed back. Did you intend to extend the terms of the incumbents, or would you like to see those seats vacated at the end of April as scheduled, and for them to stay vacant until an election winner can be certified and sworn in?
Speaker 3: (38:36)
And, secondly, you mentioned the importance of transparency to your administration and also the importance of the media. The Public Records Act has been a fundamental tool for journalists and other citizens to get that type of accurate information you’re talking about, but yesterday you signed a bill that takes the teeth out of that law. And can you tell us why you felt that was necessary to roll back the requirements for clerks to respond to open public records act requests?
Phil Murphy: (39:08)
Let me say something, which probably is apparent to you, we’re at war. We’re at war, if that is not apparent already. Look at all the things we’re talking about today. There’s no need to panic, but this is not a normal time. So we’re taking steps that we feel like we have to take. It’s nothing against the journalists, the media community, or against journalists. Trust me, that’s not the point. In fact, I’m going out of my way to praise media as an essential service because I mean it. We don’t have to say that, but we mean it. We just have to deal with the reality of manpower. The ability to turn things around. This is we’ve gone to a different place. So there’s nothing, nothing personal. There’s no thematic association with that, other than we’re at war with a virus.
Phil Murphy: (39:56)
I haven’t given the question of whether or not incumbents will be extended or their terms will end, literally, four seconds of thought. So I don’t have an answer for you. We’ll come back. I assume if their term was over at the end of April and the election isn’t until May, I assume that will extend the terms, otherwise nobody would be in the seats. I assume that’s the answer, but we’ll come back to you for that. Why?
Speaker 3: (40:22)
[inaudible 00:40:22] board of ed has other members that could continue doing business.
Phil Murphy: (40:26)
I literally haven’t given it four seconds of thought. I’m not trying to be glib about it. I did know this, that for the safety of our citizens, for the election process to make sure that we did this the right way, we had to at least defer the March and April elections to May 12th on the days that, otherwise, the nonpartisans would be taking place. If you could bear with me, I’ll come back to you with an answer, though. Thank you. Mark?
Governor Murphy, do you think it’s a good idea that the state has closed liquor stores?
Phil Murphy: (40:55)
First of all, good to see you. Secondly, the mic is actually all of a sudden amplifying, so I can hear your question. And, thirdly, we haven’t close liquor stores. Liquor stores are still open.
But at the same time, I was walking around the Ironbound the other day, by 8:00 most of these liquor stores, well before 8:00, had already been shut down. There’s a situation where there’s a combined pharmacy/liquor store where, because it’s a pharmacy, there’s still sales, and people are jamming the doors. There’s even some pushing and shoving going on. Are you worried that going forward if liquor stores are closed or things get that tight that there could be potential disturbances?
Phil Murphy: (41:32)
Yeah. I referred to this earlier, Mark, and I’ll maybe be more specific about this. A couple of things, first of all, liquor stores are not closed. We have deemed them to be allowed to be open. Secondly, in certain communities, not ones that I’m aware of that share pharmacies, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in one of those, by the way. So I’ve got to at some point separately compare notes with you. But there are some in some communities that are used for social gathering, that is a-
Phil Murphy: (42:03)
… That are used for social gathering. That is a concern. And so in that respect, we’ve been unequivocal, no social gatherings. Whether you’re in a liquor store, in your house, in you name the venue, those are now barred. That we will, with Pat and his brothers and sisters in law enforcement, we will aggressively enforce that. And then thirdly, as I mentioned, if you’re in a… We okay?
Speaker 4: (42:31)
Yeah, sorry sir.
Phil Murphy: (42:32)
No problem. If we’re in a… I thought that might’ve been the liquor store interests weighing in there. If you’re in a liquor store, a grocery store, a pharmacy, whatever is deemed as essential, you got to practice social distancing. So the notion of not only are we prohibiting gatherings regardless of where they are, but you can’t be on top of each other even if it’s deemed to be essential. So pick something that we would all agree is beyond the pale essential, medical supplies. Even if you’re in that venue, we need you to social distance. Thank you. Coming over. Do you have a question ma’am? Go to the back Dante, and then we’ll come to you [Brent 00:43:11].
Lucy Yang: (43:12)
Thank you. Thank you, Governor. Lucy Yang with Channel Seven.
Phil Murphy: (43:15)
Nice to see you.
Lucy Yang: (43:15)
Nice to see you too. Would you clarify the workers that fall under the categories of home healthcare attendants, nannies, housekeepers who could wipe down houses, individuals like that? Where do they fall in this executive-
Phil Murphy: (43:31)
Those are overwhelmingly essential services.
Lucy Yang: (43:34)
Those are all essentials?
Phil Murphy: (43:35)
Yeah, I mean I would want to make sure I’ve thought through all of those, but the answer’s yes. We have to continue to keep that safety net alive and well, including folks who do that work in homes, not just in healthcare institutions. Thank you for that. Brent.
I have a few. Can we just go in order? Or…
Phil Murphy: (43:55)
Why don’t you do them all at once and then we’re going to do one sweep back and we’ll end with John. As we started with him, I’ll come back across one more time.
Hospitals are looking for guidance on two things according to one of my fellow reporters. One, when they should use hospital… Or when they should use masks, because apparently there’s different rules all over the place. Two, they’re saying that there’s no guidance on elective surgeries being canceled. I asked you this yesterday, Governor, but people are still expecting that to be done. So that’s my health questions that I had.
Phil Murphy: (44:22)
Okay. Keep going.
Construction, is that all shut down too, commercial or residential?
Phil Murphy: (44:31)
I’ll answer that quickly. Construction has been deemed as essential. Construction will continue.
All kinds of construction?
Phil Murphy: (44:36)
All kinds unless we… By the way, one other element of the executive order, which is a particular element I like, the guy two to my right has the ability to either open the spigot or close the spigot as he and we determine and see fit, so-
Physical therapy offices?
Phil Murphy: (44:53)
Physical therapy offices?
Phil Murphy: (44:55)
I believe essential. Right? Physical therapy? Still essential. Yes.
People who are moving from a house to another place, who are deemed to move in in this weekend.
Phil Murphy: (45:06)
Phil Murphy: (45:07)
They have to. We have to allow that to happen.
And have you-
Phil Murphy: (45:10)
Please don’t give me like 80 of these though. Okay
No, that’s it. That was it. Have you been tested for coronavirus?
Phil Murphy: (45:17)
I have not.
And then so the-
Phil Murphy: (45:19)
I have no symptoms by the way. So I’m in the category of the folks that we’re actually discouraging from being tested and I hope it stays that way, for selfishly. We need folks to show up to be tested who are symptomatic.
And then the hospital questions about masks and elective surgeries.
Phil Murphy: (45:39)
Yep. Is that it in terms of…
Phil Murphy: (45:41)
Okay, so clearly Judy is the… I mentioned that Judy and I did the other day, I thought, a really productive call with healthcare systems CEO’s, workforce representatives. There’s a follow up call apparently early week at a working group level. Harmonizing, if not standardizing, practices across the systems was a big ask and that includes dealing with training, PPE were probably two of the top of the list. Is that fair to say, Judy?
Judy Persichilli: (46:09)
Absolutely. The issue of masks has come up repeatedly. The CDC has put out some guidance, particularly looking at the conservation of the N95s if you’re running low on that. On my way here, I had a call with Kevin Slavin, from the Hospital Association, trying to figure out a way that we can use the inventories of the hospitals and get more collaboration so that depending on the types of patients the hospitals are seeing, that they might be able to share their inventory more aggressively than they are right now. We are, right now, as I’m sitting here, there’s a team at Department of Health working with the Ambulatory Surgery Association, working with the Surgical Association to draw up guidelines for the curtailment or postponement of elective surgeries for the preservation… Where it’s safe, by the way. Obviously where it’s safe and supports patient care. For the preservation of PPE primarily.
Phil Murphy: (47:19)
I mentioned this yesterday. A very personal note, which I normally wouldn’t talk about but it’s relevant, is my surgeon two or three nights ago told me, I was operated on March 4th, that, by the way, I had a tumor on a kidney that needed to be dealt with within a certain amount of time, that my surgery almost certainly would have been postponed if it were this week. To give you a sense of it. So do you have anything, sir, or are you okay? Please.
Speaker 5: (47:43)
Governor, do you feel that individuals that are in essential services like supermarkets or liquor stores, the home healthcare workers should all have the opportunity to be tested, in fact, because they’re meeting and seeing so many individuals and the only way to know is to test them?
Phil Murphy: (48:00)
I defer to Judy on this. The question, if you didn’t hear it, is a fair one. Folks who are at the point of attack, particularly healthcare workers, but maybe home healthcare workers, somebody who’s working at a pharmacy, maybe a grocery store checkout counter. I guess the first thing I’d say is we are strongly encouraging everybody on the hygiene, personal hygiene front and also hygiene of surfaces. We had this discussion the other day about a regular wiping down with proper disinfectants the counters and belts at the supermarkets as an example. But the question is, Judy, should these folks be in the category, even if they’re asymptomatic? And I know what my answer would be but I defer to you, should they be prioritized in terms of testing?
Judy Persichilli: (48:48)
If there’s a healthcare worker that’s asymptomatic but has had a nexus with a positive COVID-19, more than likely they should be tested. However, the general category of pneumonia without a known cause, exposure to a COVID-19 individual, or travel internationally, or now nationally, to an area where there’s been community spread are still the first criteria that we would screen all individuals. But healthcare workers, we cannot have a group of healthcare workers scared to come to work. But do remember they could test, any one of us could test negative on Monday and five days later be positive, especially asymptomatic. So the goal of testing is people that should be tested must be tested and they’re the symptomatic individuals that fulfill the criteria. And I think we have to say at this point that people that want to be tested, although that’s a secondary goal, should be able to get the test.
Phil Murphy: (49:58)
[inaudible 00:49:58] to get there. Right. If you look at the amount of people who got tested this week versus last week, it is exponential, it’s a multiple. Our hope is that we have the same week ahead of us that we did behind us. We’re doing everything we can. The raw materials for those tests are going to be our constraining factor. The ability to have enough PPE, the ability to have enough of the intake side of the equation, probably more of a constraining issue now than the ability in the commercial labs to produce and perform the tests. We’ll come back across, but I meant to say this earlier.
Phil Murphy: (50:37)
There are five blanket, and I’m using the word blanket deliberately, exceptions to the executive order that I mentioned, the big one that I signed earlier, the stay at home order. First of all, healthcare or medical service providers. Secondly, access to essential services for low income residents, including but not limited to food banks. Thirdly, the media. Fourthly, law enforcement. And fifthly, the operations of the federal government or the movement of federal officials when operating in their official capacity. I wanted to make sure I said that. Jared, I mentioned disinformation. To what extent are our blessed enemies out there deliberately sowing confusion among our people.
Jared Maples: (51:21)
So thanks, Governor. We’ve been in constant contact with the intelligence community at the federal level, FBI, DHS, et cetera, and we’ve maintained a constant coordination for intelligence across the board. We’re operating at 100% in that capacity. And one of the pieces the governor mentioned, the text message that went out that essentially alluded to knowing a federal official or a military official that is saying this impending lockdown’s coming. We do know that came from a foreign power. That was deliberately sent out to sow discord and discontent. And so it’s an example. There’s a lot of other official examples. Government officials in Iran and China for example, have spread disinformation about COVID-19 itself, in the origins, et cetera. So those types of information strains are only causing to do more harm than good and certainly sow panic. And that’s what we’re trying to alleviate. Colonel Callahan mentioned the call we had-