New Jersey will be able to double its COVID-19 testing capacity in the coming days after the Trump administration agreed to send 550,000 test kits to the state, along with 750,000 swabs, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday afternoon, hours after a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the Oval Office.
That’s despite Trump’s wariness to commit federal aid to states like New Jersey, which Trump called a “tough question.”
“This proves that it is possible to put people over politics,” Murphy said at his daily COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton later that day. “It’s no secret that the president and I disagree on some things. But that’s not going to stop me from doing everything I can to make sure New Jersey has all the resources we need to move forward.”
New Jersey offers between 7,000 and 9,000 COVID-19 tests a day, and the arrival from Washington, D.C. – which could come in a matter of days – could bring that daily number up to 20,000 daily tests, according to Murphy.
The commitment for more testing gear would help the Murphy administration reach the second of six milestones necessary to roll back New Jersey’s virtual state of lockdown. The governor said the process for reopening the state has no set timeline, but assured it would span a number of “weeks, not months.”
“And as I have noted many times already, having a robust testing program is not just a key thing in the here and now, but a key principle for us being able to get back on the road to recovery,” Murphy said.
On top of the testing kits, 358 nursing homes across the state will share massive shipments of personal protective equipment: 220,000 masks, 19,000 goggles, 200,000 gowns and one million gloves, Murphy said.
During the 15-minute Thursday meeting, Murphy and Trump largely exchanged glowing remarks, where Murphy praised Trump for “helping us in a big way” by increasing testing in the state.
“I thank you for the enormous help in our darkest hour of need,” Murphy told Trump. “I think we’re going to be in a very good place thanks to you and your team” in terms of testing, he added.
Trump, in turn, commended Murphy as running New Jersey “with heart and with brain.”
“You can’t have a better representative than this man, that I can tell you,” the president said.
Trump remained on the fence still about New Jersey’s push for federal aid, after the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession left craters in the state’s spending plan that will need to be sorted out before the newly extended Sept. 30 budget deadline.
Mass business closures and bans on non-essential travel have ground commerce to a halt in the Garden State, destroying the types of revenue it relies on – the sales, gas, income, corporate business, casino and lottery sales taxes.
“I don’t want to put words in the president’s mouth,” Murphy added. “I can’t say I said, ‘Can you give us X?’ and he said, ‘You’re done.’ But it was a constructive conversation. And I don’t say that just to be diplomatic.”
“It was far from a heck no. It was, ‘Let me learn more about what’s going on here.’”
The congressional delegations for New York and New Jersey are seeking a combined $40 billion of federal aid for states.
New Jersey, under Murphy, is likely to borrow roughly $5 billion from a new Federal Reserve program in order to shore up its finances, amid uncertainty over how much federal funding the state could get.