By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | Mar 31, 2020 at 4:15 pm
Gov. Phil Murphy discussed life in New Jersey after the state has broken the back of COVID-19 — and even hinted at banning outsiders from entering.
Murphy, however, was the first to admit he has no specifics. The idea, he said, is based on the idea of rewarding the self-sacrifice of the state’s residents.
“We’re not going to pay this price and have to watch this movie again,” he said.
Murphy said it was too early to talk specifics.
“I’m not sure exactly what that looks like,” he said. “But, with all due respect to the states that aren’t remotely as compliant as we are, we’re not going to go through this pain together — and break the back of this curve — begin to open up again, just to be exposed to the lowest common dominator. More on that as we figure out exactly what it looks like down the road.”
Murphy also said he is beginning to assemble a team whose main job will be to figure out how the state will jump-start the economy — when it is appropriate to do so.
“We’re going to have (people) off to the side, beginning now, to look at exactly what it looks like and what’s going to be required … to turn the lights on again, whenever that may come.”
Murphy, again, had no specifics, but said some national players may take a role.
“We’re reaching out to folks who have expertise in this arena,” he said, noting a few, including the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Other news and notes from Tuesday’s briefing:
Reversing SALT deduction
Murphy said he has spoken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about reversing the limited SALT deduction on New Jerseyans filing federal taxes. He also thanked U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-8th Dist.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.).
“As we continue think about a Main Street stimulus, Congress should undo the SALT deduction cap to help new Jersey’s middle-class homeowners,” he said.
Murphy said he also is pushing for more federal relief than other states receive.
“New Jersey, and New Jerseyans who are in the eye of the storm, should not be treated the same way as states less impacted by this invisible enemy,” he said.
Murphy said the $680 million pension payment that was due Tuesday was paid.
Doctors behaving badly
Murphy said the state will crack down on any physician or pharmacist hoarding certain prescription drugs, or inappropriately prescribing them to friends and family.
Certain drugs are being investigated for their potential in treating COVID-19; Murphy wants to make sure those who need them now (for other uses) will have access to them, and also to make sure they are in the system should they be found to be a part of a cure.
People behaving badly
State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said there were 21 separate incidents in Newark on Monday night, requiring the state to write 161 summonses and close 15 businesses.
Callahan said the police’s enforcement of unlawful parties or illegally opened businesses may change.
“I think we’ve been at a place where we’re looking at whoever is hosting the party or the gathering,” he said. “We need maybe to shift that everyone at that gathering is going to be cited.”
Murphy on reducing construction work in the state: “Eliminating non-essential construction is something we’ve considered, but we’re holding where we are.”
Thanks to J&J
Murphy said he has been speaking regularly with Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky.
“They are allowing their scientists and researchers to go into the hot spots and work at the front lines,” he said. “They are working aggressively on a vaccine. There are many working on a vaccine but there are few out there — anywhere in the world, let alone New Jersey and America — who can realistically hope to achieve the scale of production.”
More testing sites
Three more county-sponsored sites either have or are preparing to open, Murphy said.
Middlesex County, starting Wednesday at the Motor Vehicle Commission’s Kilmer Vehicle Inspection Center in Edison. That site will be open M-W-F from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Testing is by appointment only, and you must be both a Middlesex County resident and exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness. Go to Middlesexcountynj.gov/COVID19testing or call 732-745-3100.
Ocean County opened its public testing site at Ocean County College on Monday. This site is open M-F by appointment only for Ocean County residents who are exhibiting symptoms. Go to ochd.org.
Camden County, in partnership with Cooper University Health Care and Virtua Health, will be opening a testing site at Cooper’s Poynt Park in Camden, which will be open from noon to 4 p.m. each weekday through April 15.
Murphy said a lot of people need to be recognized for their efforts:
“And, as we always do, we thank everyone on the front lines — especially the unsung and overlooked heroes out there working in our communities, like home health aides, sanitation workers, Teamsters and truck drivers, and transit workers. Their commitment and dedication to the rest of us means the world, and it means that we know we’ll emerge from this stronger.”