Gov. Phil Murphy went after President Donald Trump Wednesday following revelations that he withheld information about the severity of COVID-19, saying more lives could have been saved if he was more upfront from the get-go and not “sitting on knowledge” of its severity.
“If we knew, specifically, that it was transmitted airborne … if we had known that earlier, we would have shut the state meaningfully earlier. We would have gotten to a mandatory masking policy meaningfully earlier. We would have had a stay-at-home mandate put in place,” the governor said at a Wednesday evening appearance on CNN.
The Washington Post published audio recordings of a Feb. 7 conversation between Trump and journalist Bob Woodward, where the president said COVID-19 was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one,” he told Woodward.
During a conversation on March 19 between the two, Trump said he downplayed the severity of the virus so as to not incite a panic among the American people.
“If we had known this was transmittable airborne at an earlier date, and it sounds like they knew that somewhere in February, the actions that we ultimately took … we would have taken that much earlier, and it’s inconceivable to me that we wouldn’t have been able to save lives as a result of that,” the governor told CNN on Wednesday.
Christina Tan, the state’s epidemiologist, said during several press conferences in March, such as one on March 8, that the virus spread through “respiratory droplets when people are coughing, sneezing, where they potentially spread the droplets to others.”
Since the virus swept across the state in March, it has infected more than 190,000 New Jerseyans and claimed over 16,000 lives.
“I can’t tell you. As I sit here how many we would have saved,” Murphy said.
Shutdowns across the state showed many signs of working, stomping out the spread of the virus and the number of new positive cases, fatalities and hospitalizations. Those restrictions started with the declaration of a state of emergency on March 9, followed by a stay-at-home order, and the closure of retail, restaurants, malls, casinos, theaters, gyms, hair salons, construction and nail salons.
But in the process, it shattered the state economy, forcing tens of thousands of businesses to shutter their windows, leaving 1.5 million New Jerseyans unemployed and drying up billions of dollars in state tax revenue.
Murphy defended his far more conciliatory tone with Trump through the height of the pandemic in New Jersey, which spanned March through May, saying during the CNN interview that the two found “common ground” at the time.