A day after leaving an event to self-quarantine, Gov. Phil Murphy provided a more detailed timeline of the events leading up to him being informed two staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
The governor in a press briefing held over Zoom Oct. 22 stated he has tested negative twice since being informed he was in close contact with a staffer on Oct. 17. Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy canceled all of their in-person events to voluntarily quarantine through the end of the weekend.
Murphy was in Hoboken last Saturday when he came into contact with Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Delamater, a senior staffer who was the first staffer to test positive for the coronavirus. The Murphy’s were at an outdoor beer hall with communications director Mahen Gunaratna and his wife, later joined by Delamater.
Murphy described the interaction as “not really right up against this person. It was at most 15 minutes and we were outdoors. Having said all that, we’re taking the steps we are taking out of an abundance of caution and we reserve the right by the way based on tests and other developments to extend this as we think we need to.”
Murphy detailed masks were worn “at least to the best of my recollection. But at the table, you’re having a drink, you’re eating something, by definition, you’re taking your mask off.” He said there were about half a dozen people seated at his table.
The governor said his office is working virtual from home right now and the testing plan for Murphy will have him taking another one on Saturday, and then on Monday morning. He noted in some cases other staff members that they had closer, more prolonged contact with the two aides will be quarantining for 14 days.
No Lapse in Judgement
When asked if there was a lapse in judgment in going out, Murphy said no as “we were outside having a beer. Tammy and I are trying to get around the state the best we can, to go out responsibly, and try to set an example. But specifically also to give business around the state. We wore our masks when we walked in… and had them for a fair amount of time.”
Besides Delamater, Murphy senior adviser Dan Bryan has tested positive for the coronavirus as well.
Murphy had a full public schedule since coming in contact with Delamater. He held a press briefing on Oct. 19, was hosted by News12 New Jersey in Asbury Park for a live event outside, and held a press event in South Orange to announce his nominee to head the state Board of Education, Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan. All the events followed protocols, including social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
Murphy has been cautious about his own health during the pandemic. An early advocate of face masks, the governor had a 3-centimeter tumor on his left kidney removed in March. Murphy underwent a procedure called a partial nephrectomy in which doctors remove part of the kidney but not the whole organ. He noted his recent six month checkup showed no issues.
The first-term Democratic governor said deciding to self quarantine was a decision made that goes past CDC recommendations, Under their guidelines, Murphy does not have to quarantine at any length of time due to the interaction being under 15 minutes as well as not being in close contact.
“Nobody is taking this more seriously than we do,” said Murphy. “I didn’t want to leave the stage but I had to do the right thing.”
As of Oct. 22, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 224,385 with 1,182 new cases and 18 new deaths, bringing that total to 14,474. The state probable death is 1,789, bringing the overall total to 16,263.
For North Jersey counties, Essex had a total of 196 new cases, Hudson 110 new cases, Bergen 107 new cases, Morris 67 new cases, Passaic 51 new cases, and Sussex and Warren both having eight new cases.
State officials noted 13 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,909, followed by Bergen at 1,813, Hudson with 1,368, Passaic at 1,119, Morris at 690, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 230, Hudson has 159, Morris at 144, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Oct. 18 was 5.3%. By region, the North has a rate of 6.2%, Central at 5.1% and the South at 3.7%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.17 from 1.15 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 852 patients are hospitalized, with 628 cases confirmed and 224 under investigation. By region, there were 439 in the North, 203 in the Central and 210 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 187 are in intensive care units and 74 on ventilators, while 103 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 24,172, followed by Essex at 23,086, Hudson at 22,116, Middlesex at 21,323, Passaic at 20,211, Union at 19,161, Ocean at 16,302, Monmouth at 13,555, Camden at 11,071, Mercer at 9,048, Morris at 8,659, Burlington at 8,028, Somerset at 6,240, Gloucester at 5,305, Atlantic at 4,845, Cumberland at 3,939, Sussex at 1,645, Warren at 1,525, Hunterdon at 1,509, Salem at 1,152 and Cape May at 1,083.
Another 428 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 25 outbreaks involving 111 cases have been reported in nine of the 21 counties in the Garden State, up from 22 outbreaks involving 83 cases a week previous. For North Jersey, Bergen County has three confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with nine cases, Hudson County has one confirmed outbreak with four cases, and Sussex County has one confirmed outbreak with two cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 165 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 4,970 of the cases, broken down between 2,887 residents and 2,083 staff.
Cumulatively, 785 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,477 residents and 13,933 staff, for a total of 39,410 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,198 on Oct. 22. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,820 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths.