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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy defends social outing that led to virus exposure

‘No lapse in judgement,’ governor says

By Nikita Biryukov, October 22 2020 3:51 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday defended an outing to a biergarten in Hoboken where he came into contact with an administration staffer who later tested positive for COVID-19.

“There’s no lapse in judgement,” the governor said. “We were outside having a beer. Tammy and I are trying to get around the state as best we can to go out responsible and try to set an example but also specifically to give business to places around the state.”

The Murphys attended the outing with a small group of others that included senior advisor to the governor for strategic communications Dan Bryan and deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs Mike Delamater, whose attendance Murphy said was brief.

Delamater’s positive test result prompted Murphy to abruptly depart a governmental event in Blackwood early Wednesday afternoon. He and First Lady Tammy Murphy tested negative yesterday but are quarantining until at least Monday.

They intend to take two more COVID-19 tests in the intervening days.

The quarantine, which Murphy said was taken out of an abundance of caution, falls short of what’s prescribed by guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control. The governor said his contact with Delamater on Saturday alone didn’t merit a 14-day quarantine based on the CDC guidance.

“Tammy and I did not have a defined close contact,” he said. “But we, for a number of reasons — including that I had a malignant tumor on my kidney in March — we’re not about cutting any corners here.”

Murphy underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his left kidney on March 4, the same day New Jersey reported its first virus case. While the procedure waylaid the governor for more than a week, he reported good health as recently as Oct. 9.

An unknown number of other administration staffers have self-quarantined

“Our entire front office is working from home. Within that group, and I don’t have a specific number for you, there are several at least who have been deemed to have had a close contact as defined by the CDC,” he said. “They in fact are not just working from home, but they’re self-quarantining.”

It’s not clear whether any of those contacts are related to a going-away party held for former chief counsel Matt Platkin Friday, though Murphy said Thursday that event operated within the state’s virus guidelines.

“I can’t give you the exact number, but particularly given it was outside, it was well social-distanced and within capacity,” he said of the outdoor event at Drumthwacket.

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