This story was updated with comment from Murphy communications director Mahen Gunaratna at 2:35 p.m. It was updated again at 3:54 p.m. and a third time at 4:54 p.m.
The administration later identified Mike Delamater, Murphy’s deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs, as the COVID-positive senior staffer. Delamater frequently accompanies the governor to events featuring local & federal officials.
Yet later, the governor’s office said Dan Bryan, senior advisor to the governor for strategic communications, tested positive for the virus. Bryan attended the Blackwood event and was the staffer who notified Murphy of his virus exposure. He is asymptomatic.
Gov. Phil Murphy is quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19 on Saturday.
“I was just informed by my colleagues that I was in close proximity to someone on Saturday who has just tested positive,” Murphy said midway through a press conference at Camden County College.
Mahen Gunaratna, the governor’s communications director, said later Wednesday that a senior staffer recently tested positive for the virus. That staffer is in quarantine at home, and the administration has launched contact tracing efforts.
The governor will remain quarantined until at least Monday.
“Out of an abundance of caution and in line with the highest levels of commitment to protecting public health, the Governor and First Lady will be canceling their in-person events and voluntarily quarantining through the end of the weekend, and each will take an additional COVID-19 test before they resume any in-person engagements,” Gunaratna said.
The governor, who was asymptomatic Wednesday, said he returned a negative test on Monday, though he was not aware of his exposure to the virus at the time.
“I had no idea until five minutes ago,” he said of the exposure.
Gunaratna said the the governor and First Lady Tammy Murphy returned negative COVID-19 tests Wednesday afternoon.
Murphy’s negative test result is not enough to preclude the threat of infection. COVID-19 can incubate for up to 14 days, though it typically does so for about six days.
“As you all know, just because I was with someone Saturday night and you got tested Sunday morning, that doesn’t really tell you a lot,” Murphy said. “You’ve got to wait and see to make sure there wasn’t any incubating.”
The governor, at 63, is within the age group most vulnerable to the virus. He underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his left Kidney on March 4, the same day the state reported its first case of COVID-19.
The surgery waylaid the governor for weeks in its immediate aftermath, though he has since reported good health.
“I will now, unfortunately, have to take myself off the field,” Murphy said. “I cannot ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and do a fundraiser and have me sit here.”