Gov. Phil Murphy denied that an executive order announced Thursday allowing local and county governments to enact some restrictions on businesses was made in an attempt to shift political blame for COVID-19 related business closures away from the governor.
“Given all the tough decisions we’ve taken, you probably anticipate by now that my answer would be we’re not trying to avoid the political hit on something,” Murphy said during Tuesday’s virus briefing. “It’s just a reality, and I don’t personally believe there’s a lot of communities where they will actually take this up. That’s my current prediction in terms of the flexibility to close non-essential indoor activities earlier.”
Thursday’s order allows local and county governments to shut down non-essential businesses after 8 p.m., two hours earlier than the 10 p.m. closure the governor set for indoor dining in an order announced Monday.
The latter order went into effect Thursday.
Though criticism from Republicans was scant in the first month of the pandemic, they’ve since continually gone after the governor for what they view as languidly slow reopening. Those criticisms haven’t abated as the state’s daily case counts ballooned over the last few weeks.
Some even slapped Murphy over Monday’s order, claiming it would cripple an already struggling restaurant industry.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli is among those who has consistently criticized the governor’s virus response.
Case counts were far lower when murphy ordered all non-essential businesses to close on March 21, though the state’s testing apparatus was then far worse equipped to screen large amounts of residents for the virus.
Still, the state reported 4,372 new virus cases on April 4. Testing that early in the pandemic reflected infections that occurred up to two weeks earlier.
On Thursday, the state reported 3,517 new cases, and state health officials signaled they expect those numbers to worsen over the coming days.
Further, Thursday’s order is a departure from how the administration has handled most of its virus restrictions, which have largely been enacted on a statewide basis. Murphy said the departure from that practice was intentional.
“Most of the list is one fits all, but on something like this, after having really kicked it around and thought about it extensively — obviously with a big input from health but also from the compliance side — this felt like one where we wanted to allow that ability, so not politics but just another example of where we can be more surgical than blunt instrument,” he said.