A ‘dictator’? Please. Murphy was right to play it safe | Editorial

Posted June 28, 2020

The spike in coronavirus cases we’re now seeing in other states is alarming and could ultimately endanger Americans everywhere. European countries are considering banning travelers from the U.S.

Without a doubt, the mostly Republican strategy of sticking your head in the sand on the science is going to slow down the recovery in these places.

If people don’t feel safe venturing back out in public, packing the bars won’t help businesses or the economy. They’ll spread the virus from bars to their coworkers and grandmas.

On this, Gov. Phil Murphy did the right thing, and it’s the most important test by far. He made decisions that were very tough, but reasonable, based on expert advice to keep most businesses closed until the state had relatively few infections.

Some of his chief critics, like Sen. Declan O’Scanlon and the owner of a gym in South Jersey, advocated for disobeying the rules. In response, Murphy said he wanted to open up the state as much as the next guy, “But let’s be responsible, man. Let’s do this together.”

If every business took it upon itself to make policy, it would have created chaos, spreading the virus unchecked. The governor used the power we elected him to wield in a reasonable way, operating with the popular will behind him, polls confirmed. To call him a “dictator,” like gym owner Frank Trumbetti did, is offensive.

Murphy made some mistakes, of course, blowing it on prisons and nursing homes. He wasn’t always consistent, choosing to march in the Black Lives Matter protest even though it violated his own social distancing standards.

But the outbreaks in the South and West are underscoring the overall wisdom of his go-slow approach. It has largely been a huge success. Our hospitalizations have fallen below 1,200, after peaking at more than 8,000 in mid-April.

We are now one of three states on pace to contain COVID, along with New York and Michigan. And the explosion of cases in states that reopened early, like Arizona and Texas, should give Murphy’s critics a taste of exactly the risk that they were putting us at.

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