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

No end in sight for Murphy’s virus briefings

With Cuomo winding down daily conference, Murphy soldiers on

By Nikita Biryukov, June 19 2020 12:05 pm

Don’t expect Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily briefings to stop in the immediate future.

“For the time being, we are comfortable with the schedule that we have, which is another way of saying there won’t be a briefing tomorrow or Sunday, but we’ll be back at it again on Monday,” Murphy said when asked if he would join New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in ending daily virus briefings that have now run for more than 100 days.

The briefings have morphed considerably over the more than three months since the state identified its first case of COVID-19.

In the beginning, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver led the briefings while Gov. Phil Murphy was waylaid by a surgery that removed a cancerous tumor on his left kidney.

The governor returned in mid-March, when briefings were still being held at the New Jersey State Police Regional Operation’s and Intelligence Center, affectionately known as the ROIC (read: rock).

For a relatively short time, the briefings moved to the media room in the governor’s building on West State Street in Trenton. During many of these early briefings, neither reporters nor Murphy and the top state officials that make up his briefing entourage were spaced apart from one another.

For the past months, the briefings have been held in the Trenton War Memorial, with seats for reporters and staff spread at least 6 ft. apart from one another.

The daily, often televised, briefings were a boon for Murphy throughout the crisis, providing the governor with a direct line to thousands of livestream viewers a day, on top of network audiences pulled on the occasions that cable news networks carried the daily coronavirus press conferences live.

Despite the obvious benefit — the governor’s approval rating hit an all-time high during the crisis — there are talks of ending the daily display.

“It’s something we review,” Murphy said of ending the briefings. “And we want to make sure these are meaningful, not just for the folks like yourself who show up, take the time to be here, but for the what turns out to be millions of people who watch us.”

In all likelihood, the state has months before it moves through the rest of its reopening plan.

That means New Jerseyans Shouldn’t expect to see their governor off the air anytime soon.

“If we’ve got important messages, particularly as we continue to go through stage two and then turn into the early moments of stage three, particularly if we see a flare-up or if we think there’s a particular habit that we need to emphasize, we think those continue to have value,” Murphy said. “So we’ll report back when we have something to say on that.”

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