Murphy isn’t backing down on indoor masks, and even MSNBC wonders why. Here is the policy behind it.


New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut. Like New Jersey, all are northeastern states hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with Democratic governors who have imposed sweeping restrictions to combat it, sometimes in coordination.

And all have announced in recent days that they are adopting new federal guidelines that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or social distancing in most cases.

But not in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who is running for office this year, insists it is too early to lift the Garden State’s indoor mask mandate for those vaccinated, despite new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Murphy – who admitted to being caught off guard by the CDC’s sudden announcement last Thursday – argued that while New Jersey’s COVID-19 numbers have improved, too many people in the state are not being vaccinated and that more time would be useful.

He also said he didn’t want essential workers like waiters in restaurants or cashiers in stores to be the arbiter of who gets vaccinated and who isn’t as new cases – and deaths – are occurring. announced daily.

“I just don’t want to get burned,” Murphy said Monday. “I cannot speak for our neighbors. They have been excellent partners. But on this one, we feel pretty strongly.

This makes New Jersey one of the few states in the United States that does not immediately plan to comply with the new CDC guidelines. California is one of the others, but Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state will pass the guidelines by June 15. Massachusetts will do so on May 29.

Murphy’s decision has sparked the ire of Republicans, who now have a new stick to strike him for a second term.

“Science is science,” said Senator Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen. “Either we follow the CDC or we don’t. We cannot choose. I think a lot of people are really confused.

Murphy was even criticized Tuesday morning on MSNBC. Joe Scarborough – although a former Republican congressman – and Willie Geist questioned why Murphy would keep the mandate even though he had followed CDC guidelines in the past and a majority of New Jerseyens were receiving at least one dose. vaccine.

“He’s really lonely,” said Geist, from New Jersey.

The MSNBC criticism prompted the Republican Governors Association to issue a statement saying it’s “a sure sign that Phil has gone all out with his tin foil hat.”

Still, others are skeptical that people who wear masks indoors will go after Murphy when he is re-elected.

Ben Dworkin, director of Rowan University’s Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship, said he doesn’t expect the governor’s position to last “very long.” Indeed, Murphy said he could relax the masks in a matter of weeks if the numbers continue to improve and the vaccinations continue.

Dworkin also noted that the people who agree with Murphy “are the ones he wants to keep happy” while those who disagree with him “are the ones who will ignore the order.”

“Obviously New Jersey is going in the right direction,” Dworkin said. “And if there is a reluctance on the part of the governor and his team to go as fast as the others to open up the internal demands, then that is their prerogative.

Murphy, an avowed progressive, has garnered support in recent days from unions – including the Communication Workers of America and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – who say he is right to keep the masked mandate to protect their workers.

The masks of abandonment could also have more political advantages for other Democratic governors. Andrew Cuomo of New York has been besieged by the scandal. Tom Wolfe of Pennsylvania faces pressure from a Republican-controlled state legislature. And California’s Newsom faces a recall election.

Murphy, on the other hand, has relatively positive poll results. A recent Monmouth University poll showed that 57% of adults in New Jersey approve of his overall job performance, although just under half – 48% – say he deserves a second term, while 43 % prefer someone else.

Another recent Monmouth poll found that 66% say Murphy is doing a good job of tackling the outbreak – although this is down from 79% from the peak of the pandemic last April.

“For anyone who is vocally out there to soften (masks) … there are probably one or two other people who are quietly supporting the fact that he isn’t,” said Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University. Polling Institute.

“The needle is unlikely to move that much,” added Murray.

Stephanie Silvera, epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University, said Murphy “hedges on the side of caution.”

Silvera agrees that the CDC’s new guidelines are a way to encourage people to get vaccinated.

“My concern is that there will be people who are not vaccinated and who are willing to use this as an opportunity to take off the masks,” she said.

“That way, yeah, I think it can be a good thing in the short term,” Silvera added of Murphy’s decision. “Obviously, we are heading for no mask. But what we really need is for everyone to come together when the numbers are lower, and the unvaccinated people really should continue to wear their masks.

Silvera also noted that if people follow the guidelines, “removing warrants would be a good step.”

Murphy himself said he had “no interest” in worrying about the political fallout of his decision.

“It’s easy to be in the third deck of the cheap seats and, you know, comment in color on what we should be doing,” he said on Monday. “At the end of the day, we have to call it the best we can, and keeping people alive is our obsession.”

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Matt Arco can be reached at [email protected].

Brent Johnson can be reached at [email protected].

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