The Knucklehead Hall of Fame

By Fred Snowflack | July 29, 2020

Insider NJ

Gov. Phil Murphy

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The last thing anyone should want to do is invite COVID-19 to their next summer party.

That’s how a concerned Phil Murphy put it at today’s pandemic update briefing. New Jersey’s metrics continue to be good – certainly when compared to many other states – but the road may be getting bumpy.

The governor spoke of far too many house parties with people jammed together with no masks.

These gatherings may be for friends and relatives, but as the governor said, the hosts have just “invited (the) coronavirus into your party.”

We have seen a number of stories over the past week of out of control house parties, including a mob of 700 people at a house in Jackson Township. It apparently took police five hours to clear the scene.

This and similar, albeit smaller, gatherings may look like young people doing what young people have done in the summer for years – have a good time.

But this year, the consequences can be more severe than a bad hangover.

State officials said it’s unknown how many cases of COVID-19 will be attributed to the Jackson event.

However, teen parties in Middletown – ironically the governor’s hometown – have caused 55 cases of the virus. A lifeguard party on Long Beach Island sparked 35 cases and a graduation party in Cape May caused 46 cases spread between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And then, there are the 15 members of the Rutgers University football team who have the virus.

Murphy was sympathetic – up to a point. He said he knows it’s summer, he knows it’s hot and he knows folks want to, as he termed it, “blow off some steam.”

But he urged common sense – limit the number of people, wear masks and the heat notwithstanding, go outside.

“This is no time for anyone to be vying for induction into the knucklehead hall of fame,” he said.

Speaking of “knuckleheads,” the governor also criticized the party-goers in Middletown for not cooperating with state contact tracers, whose job it is to interview those infected to limit the spread of the virus. Murphy said a few days ago that such cooperation was improving, but today he said too many people are refusing to talk to contact tracers.

Some may recall that when this happened after a party in New York State a few weeks ago, the non-compliers got subpoenas and were threatened with hefty fines. That’s one way to encourage cooperation.

The governor’s overall fear is that irresponsible behavior will threaten the progress New Jersey has made fighting the virus.

In truth, it’s hard for the state to proactively crackdown on large parties. Generally, they only become known to authorities if neighbors complain about noise or cars parked illegally on a residential street. By then, the damage in terms of exposure may have already been done.

So, this is truly a case where public cooperation is needed.

By the way, there are now 36 states on “the list” of places state residents must self-quarantine after visiting.

The governor was asked if we may reach a point where New Jerseyans won’t be able to go anywhere. It was sort of a facetious query, but Murphy took it seriously, noting that there are still sections of the country – think New England – that are perfectly fine to visit.

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