Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, praised how the Murphy administration has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic since March, saying the state would be in a position that it could continue with its business reopenings as the colder months approach and a second wave of outbreaks looms.
“The thing that makes me very pleased and encouraged about New Jersey is that, notwithstanding that you got hit pretty badly, right now if you continue to carefully and prudently open the economy, you can get through the fall and the winter,” Fauci said in a half-hour long Facebook Live video chat with Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday morning.
New Jersey’s “baseline” with the virus is “so low, you are going to be at an advantage when the inevitable cases occur,” explained Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Murphy administration rolled out a litany of restrictions in March and April that shuttered tens of thousands of businesses such as malls, casinos, gyms, indoor dining, non-essential retail, and nail and hair salons.
That approach has brought down the number of COVID-19 cases and slammed the breaks on the spread of the virus. But, it’s shattered the state economy in the process, leading to record-high unemployment and 1.6 million New Jerseyans out of work.
There are places in the country where a second wave is an oxymoron because they’re still in the middle of the first wave.
— Dr. Anthony Fauci
The state’s positivity rate among COVID-19 tests has oscillated between 1.5 and 2 percent, both acceptable numbers according to the governor. They were, from Murphy’s point of view, enough to justify recently scaling back restrictions on indoor dining, theaters and gyms.
Murphy said Monday that there was “no evidence” linking COVID-19 outbreaks to these businesses. And he called Fauci’s comments Thursday “extremely encouraging.”
New Jersey is adding several hundred new cases of COVID-19 a day, as opposed to between 35,000 and 45,000 nationwide on a daily basis, Fauci said.
“There are places in the country where a second wave is an oxymoron because they’re still in the middle of the first wave,” he added.
Nonetheless, a second wave coinciding with the flu season has been feared as colder weather forces more New Jerseyans indoors, where the virus can more easily spread to new hosts.
Spikes are almost certain during the cold weather months, Fauci said.
And he, like Murphy, decried large-scale social gatherings and parties among teenagers and young adults.
“Because even though you may not get any symptoms as you have a house party with a lot of drinking and no masks indoors, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to inadvertently, not deliberately – and I would say innocently – you’re going to infect someone else who infects someone else,” Fauci said.