Governor Phil Murphy

TRANSCRIPT: August 17th, 2020 Coronavirus Briefing Media


Governor Phil Murphy: Good afternoon, everyone and thank you for your patience in allowing us to do this a little bit later today. I think she's watching, Happy 21st Birthday to our daughter, Emma Murphy. With me today, as they are almost I think literally every single day, the woman to my right who needs no introduction, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli. He's in the audience but he's with us today, another familiar face, the Department of Health's Communicable Disease Service Medical Director, Dr. Ed Lifshitz. Ed, great to have you. To my far left and the guy who needs no introduction Superintendent of the State Police Pat Callahan; Jared Maples, Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is with us. And we have two really special guests today, two leading Legislative partners, to my immediate left, dear friend, Senator Paul Sarlo and Mayor Paul Sarlo. And to my far right, another dear friend, Assemblyman and Coach Benjie Wimberly. Great to have you guys here.

Before I get to why the Senator and the Assemblyman are with us, I want to quickly acknowledge the enhanced compliance we saw this weekend at numerous Jersey Shore outdoor bars and clubs to ensure proper social distancing, not just among patrons, but those waiting to get in. I saw photos of the lines outside of D Jai’s in Belmar, and that's DJs on the left, Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant and Bar A in Lake Como, which is there on the right, among others. And the difference between last week and this week was more than noticeable, so I must give management and patrons a big thank you for stepping up. Before I forget, Deputy Counsel Parimal Garg is also with us today. Thank you for being here.

I also want to recognize Jeremy Schneider of New Jersey Advance Media and whose reporting in pictures over the past two weekends have helped push these establishments. We know this problem isn't fixed and even when we're wearing masks, social distancing, which is still the order of the day, wasn't universal. Obviously more bars are trying to do the right thing but equally as obviously, we all need to redouble our efforts.

On the other side of the coin, apologies, were places like Headliners in Neptune City. A line with zero masks as far as we could tell, and equally lax social distancing. Anyone here could have spread this virus before they even set foot in the bar. This has got to stop. And in that vein, I also want to give a shout out to the North Wildwood Police for their action this weekend to shut down the bar Flip Flopz and to cite the bar management for noncompliance as they and their patrons weren't taking this pandemic seriously. I cannot, and Judy joins me, I know Pat, Ed and others, we cannot stress this enough. The overwhelming amount of establishments and customers are in fact doing the right thing. I see this, by the way, myself with my own eyes every weekend. But these efforts have to be maintained for the weeks to come, and they shouldn't have to come about because we call people out for failing to do the right things. It's the knuckleheads who think the rules don't apply to them, or who think this pandemic isn't serious, or that it's over who ruin it for the rest of us, and that goes for both bar owners and bar patrons. We will continue to monitor this closely in partnership with local law enforcement and we will not hesitate to take action against those who think that they can revert back to bad practices after a week or two.

I'm glad to see, in fact more than glad to see, more and more folks all getting on the same page. We cannot risk letting a bar become the epicenter for a coronavirus flare up. Let's all do this together, folks. Keep your social distances, wear your face masks. There are a few more weekends, thank God, left in the summer, so let's make them as safe for everyone as we possibly can. And by the way, enjoy yourselves, but do it responsibly.

Now as to why our dear friend Senator Sarlo and Assemblyman Wimberly are with us today. As our school districts continue their planning for how their school years will open, so too is the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association planning for how and whether the fall high school sports seasons will unfold. The three of us have had multiple conversations about this issue and we share both a commitment to the health and safety of our communities and a desire to see our kids be able to play for their teams if it can be safely managed. I am encouraged that most of our major fall sports are played, and I know Judy joins me in this, outdoors, as we know that outdoor activities are increasingly safer than indoor ones. And with the expanses of fields we can also ensure proper social distancing among parents and spectators and also among student athletes on the sidelines.

The final determination on the fall high school sports seasons will be made by the NJSIAA and from my and my team's conversations with the NJSIAA leadership, and I want to give a big shout out to the Executive Director, Colleen McGuire, and I know that Senator Sarlo and Assemblyman Wimberly have had these conversations a lot more, in fact, than I have as well. We know that NJSIAA is taking extremely seriously the need for protecting everyone in our school communities and will only pursue a sports schedule if they feel the proper health and safety requirements can be met.

However, we are making it clear that whether a student athlete is participating in remote learning or in-person instruction, their ability to participate with their team will not be altered in any way. Whether that student is seated in a socially distanced classroom or at their kitchen table does not matter. They are a student of that school and they can play for that school. Now, some districts have already given notice that their teams will not be taking the field or lining up at the starting line, as is their right, and we are not going to overrule them. But for every school that does give their teams the go ahead, we don't want any student athlete to be shut out based on whether or not they are physically in their school building. I'll let Senator Sarlo and Assemblyman Wimberly speak to this in a few moments, and I can't thank them enough for their leadership and for being with us today. And again, their partnership and advocacy for the communities they represent and the student athletes across the entire state are deeply felt, so thank you, guys.

Let's turn if we can, Judy, to the overnight numbers. Today we're reporting an additional 316 positive test results, statewide cumulative total since March 4th, 187,767. I should note and Judy, you may want to get into this, I think you may in a few minutes in more detail, if folks want us to at least, a total of 316 cases which we reported last week have been removed from our count, as upon further review, they were out-of-state reports that were actually transmitted to us by the company and lab Bio Reference. I know, as I said, Judy and Ed may want to comment on that in a few minutes.

Daily positivity for tests recorded on August 13th, which is last Thursday, was 1.65%. That's a really good number and it is the third day in a row that was less than the day before. Statewide transmission rate unfortunately has crept up to 1.03. Judy and Ed, I'm not shocked given the volume of positive tests we've had. But remember, overwhelmingly about 98% of the folks who are getting tested right now are testing negative. It is somewhat a statement, not entirely, but somewhat a statement to the enormous testing capacity we have in place right now.

In our hospitals as of last night's reporting, there were 472 patients in total being treated, 264 of them are confirmed COVID-19 and 208 are listed as persons under investigation pending the return of their test results. Of this amount, 91 were in intensive care, 38 required a ventilator. Today, with the heaviest of hearts, we also must report another four fatalities that are now confirmed to be from COVID-19 complications. This brings the statewide total of confirmed COVID-19 related deaths to 14,077 with an additional 1,839 probable deaths.

In our hospitals yesterday and again, this is apples to oranges deliberately to give you all a sense of the here and now, 10 deaths were reported, but again, they're not yet lab confirmed, they are not in those numbers. Of the four that we are reporting today that are confirmed, one is from August 11. The other three are from July 9th, July 2nd, and May 11th respectively. And as we have done over the past many months, let's remember the lives led by a few more of New Jersey's blessed souls that COVID-19 has taken from us.

We'll start today not too far from where I hang out in Ocean Township, the home of Ron Frangipane. Ron was born in Brooklyn, but raised and educated in Oradell. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester and later, by the way entitled Goddard College, he was a go-to studio musician in New York City throughout the '60s and '70s as well as a noted composer, arranger and teacher. He was at the keyboard on the iconic 60s pop hit, Judy, you and I will date ourselves here, Sugar Sugar, supposedly by the Archies, which I don't believe is a band that actually ever existed. Ron was on the keyboards and he played along such legends, talk about range here, get these names: John Lennon, Diana Ross, Gene Simmons of KISS and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. He also led his own band, Ron Frangipane and his Orchestra.

In 1997, Ron joined the faculty at Monmouth University serving as Musical Director for on-campus shows and led the university's music industry program. But sadly in 2012, Hurricane Sandy changed Ron's life when an accident led him to have a stroke and suffer a traumatic brain injury. While he could no longer work, he kept going. Ron was 75 years old. He leaves behind his wife and best friend right till the end, Susan Nolton, his daughter Emily, his son Gregory, with whom I had the great honor of speaking on Friday who himself, by the way, is an audio engineer and his friends would never believe that his dad was on all these records when he was growing up. He didn't even bother telling most of his friends because they wouldn't believe him. He also leaves behind Emily's and Greg's families, including his grandchildren, Wyatt and Cory. He also leaves countless friends. I mentioned our daughter Emma is 21 today, our son Sam turns 17 tomorrow, and that's appropriate because I asked Greg, what his dad's favorite song was. And he said, well, Sugar Sugar got most of the attention, but actually it was the song At 17 by Janis Ian which Ron arranged. Dave, you'll remember this, again, we're dating ourselves. And he won numerous accolades for that. And if you listen to the song as I did this weekend, it includes the instrument the flugel horn, which you do not hear on many pop or rock records. I'll quote Janis Ian as we say goodbye to Ron and that is from that song, "It was long ago and faraway, the world was younger than today."

Next up, we remember the former Bound Brook fire chief Richard Colombaroni. Richard was a Bound Brook native who would call the borough home his entire life, save for the two years he spent in the US Army, which as he put it, were mostly – and this is not my words -- mostly caddying for a general who took a liking to him in training. Paul, a lesson learned for all of us, right? His career in public service began in high school when he joined the Bound Brook rescue squad his senior year. After returning from his military service, he joined Hose Company No. 1, and also got a job working for the borough because it was one of the few places he could work and be able to fight fires when a daytime call came in.

He had other interests too. He owned and operated a Chevron service station, owned and maintained rental properties, and even opened his own restaurant Rick's Firehouse appropriately, all of it, of course, in Bound Brook. But all those pursuits left him too little time for what he truly loved, being with his family and being a firefighter. He returned to work for the borough as Superintendent of Streets and Roads and became both Bound Brook's fire inspector and fire marshal. Richard was a lifelong member of St. Joseph's Church and a member of not one but two Italian American clubs. I want to make sure Ms. Persichilli heard that. He was an avid outdoorsman and hunter, and he had a collection of antique fire trucks he restored himself and would take out to parades and musters across the region.

Richard is now reunited with his beloved wife Teresa, to whom he was married for 50 years and who predeceased him. He leaves his kids, daughters Sharon and Nikki, and son Richard Jr., and I had the great honor of speaking with Richard on Friday. And by the way, that is Sharon and Richard Jr. with him. And by the way, Richard Jr. is also, by the way, a Detective Lieutenant for the Bound Brook Police and, not surprisingly, a volunteer fireman. He also leaves behind their spouses and his grandchildren Mattie, Jake, Tommy, and Tony and he leaves a very grateful Bound Brook and the State of New Jersey and the United States of America, for all you did, Richard, across 85 years of life. Thank you and may God bless and watch over you.

And finally, today, we remember Cynthia Watkins on the right there of Deerfield in Cumberland County. She was 67 years old when COVID-19 took her from us. She and her husband Richard who goes, by the way, by the name Steve celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary only one month before her passing. Cindy, as she was known, was born and raised in Bridgeton and for the past 19 years served in the human resources department for the Bridgeton Board of Education. Previously, she had been a substitute teacher, as well as the bookkeeper for her husband's electrical contracting business. Every weekend Cindy taught Sunday school for both children and adults at the West Park United Methodist Church in Bridgeton, where she was a longtime active member, and where she helped develop the nursery program into a Sunday school for preschool-aged children.

But first and foremost to Cindy was her family. She and Steve and four children Richard Jr, Laura, Megan, and Katie, and I had the great honor and Friday of speaking both with Steve and their youngest Katie, and she did whatever she needed to support them growing up, especially when it came to athletics and dance, and she was equally devoted to her three grandchildren, Moises, Ryder and Declan. She leaves behind this tremendous family as well as her two sisters, Pam and Sharon and brothers Steve and Jeff and their families, including many nieces and nephews and among the folks she leaves behind is our dear friend Darlene Barber who was Steve's sister and Cumberland County Deputy Director of the Freeholder Board, and clearly Cindy's sister-in-law. Cindy spent her life tending to the needs of others. She represents the best of our New Jersey family, and may God bless and watch over her and those who loved her.

So we remember Ron, Richard and Cindy because none of the 14,000-plus this virus has taken should ever be forgotten, or perhaps even worse, just be reduced to a number. We remember them all, each and every one of them, and we honor each and every one of them. And for them, we all together keep up our fight against this virus.

Finally today, let's switch gears to meet one of the pioneering small business leaders who will be helping to lead our economic future out of this pandemic. This is Fredric Byarm, a successful food industry entrepreneur and restaurateur who owns and operates Invincible City Farms in Camden, New Jersey. Invincible City runs on a mission to eradicate Camden's food desert and ensure that every resident has access to fresh, healthy foods, and to connecting the community directly with its food source. Fredric's vision for Invincible City Farms is to improve health outcomes in Camden, while creating jobs and bringing a new sense of dignity to one of our state's long underserved but proud communities. And as we continue fighting this pandemic and when we emerge from it, Fredric and his team at Invincible City will also be valuable.

Recently, Invincible City Farms teamed with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to receive a micro loan to purchase farm equipment that will allow them to grow and transport fresh fruits and vegetables across Camden and into Salem City. Fredric and Invincible City Farms represent one of the many Black-owned businesses we are proud to support. And as August is National Black Business Month, we salute them. Fredric and I had a great conversation on Friday. And, Judy, you're going to have to make sure this happens. I said we'd go down and visit them and see it with our own eyes.

Since our administration, by the way, took office in January of 2018, we have worked hard to ensure that more economic assistance has been directed into the hands of Black business leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as to the other firms owned by women, veterans and minorities. In two-and-a-half years we have seen some real progress, although we have a ways to go. We've streamlined processes for more of these businesses to be certified to compete for state and local business opportunities. We opened new doors of opportunity in partnership, and through the Division of Investment, we've committed to diversifying the ranks of those who hold state investments as well, and have directed a total in our time in office of $1.3 billion in new capital to women, veteran and minority fund managers. Including of that $1.3 billion, that's out of a total of 3.2 that we've actually moved, so $1.3 to women, veteran, minority fund managers, that's just over 40%. Included in that $1.3 billion is $975 million alone to Black-owned investment firms.

This is what we mean when we say a stronger and fairer economy, because we all know that when everyone has a seat at the table, and everyone has an opportunity for success, we all win. And it's that mindset that we take to everything we do, including fighting this virus. Folks, remember, we're all in this together. No one gets lost and no one gets left behind. So let's keep pulling together as one extraordinary broad New Jersey family. We have come a long, long way since March, but we are not yet across that finish line. In fact, I don't think we're frankly near it. We still have a ways to go. But every day we inch closer and we will get there. So stay at it everybody. We will get there and we'll be stronger together, as one New Jersey than ever, ever before.

Please help me welcome a guy who wears a couple of extraordinary hats. He's a Mayor, he's a State Senator. He's Chairman of the State Senate Budget Committee, which has an incredibly consequential position. He has a big role in the private sector, and he is a leader among our leaders in this state as it relates to sports, both high school and beyond. Please help me welcome Senator Paul Sarlo.

Senator Paul Sarlo: Thank you, Governor. Thank you for having us here today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide you with some very brief remarks here today. If I may reflect for a moment, I recall watching these daily press conferences back at the end of March and early April, when we as a state were in a real dark time. Although we're not fully out of the woods here today by any means, it is quite encouraging to be here today to discuss some 95,000 student athletes. That's right. 95,000 student athletes who participate in fall sports sanctioned by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association, known as the NJSIAA.

These student athletes are extremely active individuals who need sports in their lives not only from a physical wellbeing, but also for their mental and social wellbeing as well. We also live in a very competitive youth sports world these days, and the athletes and their parents have an insatiable appetite to compete at the highest level. Some do it for fun and the social aspect of it, but others for opportunities to gain access to various higher educational opportunities. I too live in that world as an avid supporter of high school sports, but also as a dad with a son who plays three varsity sports, and also competes at the club level as well. So, I get it.

If we take fall sports away from our young student athletes, then I am concerned that they will fill the void with other extracurricular activities that are not sanctioned by the NJSIAA, which is 100-year-old organization that provides education-based athletic activities backed by school districts that can ensure that proper health and safety requirements are followed. The Governor and I spent considerable time this summer at the Last Dance High School Baseball Tournaments. He even came to watch me coach. I know that our reflections and our opinions are the same on what I'm about to say. Outdoor sports that limit travel to your local region and keeps student athletes here in the state, that are organized and structured by the NJSIAA, create an environment that, one, holds our student athletes accountable and responsible to their team for their actions, both on and off the field. And number two, by keeping them in that structure, it greatly reduces the likelihood that our student athletes will engage in that reckless behavior off the field that could cause the spread of COVID-19.

I have the pleasure to serve as an Executive Board Member of the NJSIAA, and I am proud of how well they have managed high school sports during this pandemic. Our new leader of the organization, as Governor Murphy mentioned earlier, Colleen McGuire, is a huge asset to the state of New Jersey and is the right person to lead this organization through this pandemic, in order to protect over a quarter of a million high school student athletes. That's right, a quarter of a million high school student athletes here in New Jersey.

The Governor and his team, alone with Colleen and the NJSIAA, and I personally have spent countless hours on the phone, during Zoom calls, ensuring we are all rowing in the same direction. Unfortunately, that is not happening in other states, but it's happening here in New Jersey. I am confident that the NJSIAA, in the coming days, will provide even further clarification and guidance on fall sports. To the coaches, to the parents and the players, I wish you success this season, unless you're playing the Borough Wizards, of course, Governor. And I challenge you to do it responsibly and safely, because we are all in this together. The reckless behavior off the field has to stop, and do it within a structured environment, and we will get through this together. So Governor Murphy, thank you for your leadership. Thank you for all the hours you have spent with us and Colleen and the NJSIAA. I'm not sure ever a Governor has spent that much time focusing with that organization, so I cannot thank you enough for your commitment to the quarter of a million student athletes here in New Jersey.

Governor Phil Murphy: Paul, thank you. That means a lot and thank you for your leadership. Not just as mayor and Senate Chairman, but as coach, as dad, as advocate on NJSIAA's Executive Board. God bless you and thank you for everything. As I mentioned, we're joined today by another leader who wears many hats. And by the way, Benjie Wimberly is not here alone. Yvette Roland, as usual, is right by his side so I want to give you a shout out back there. Wearing a mask, I might add, as everyone else is, so fantastic. But coach, great to have you with us. Obviously a leader in the Assembly, a Chairman in his own right, someone who speaks on behalf of the community of Paterson, one of our great, proud communities in this state and just as a clarion voice on its behalf and on behalf of so many others who don't have that voice. So please help me welcome Assemblyman Benjie, Coach Benjie Wimberly.

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly: Thank you, Governor. I want to thank you for inviting me this afternoon. I thank Senator Sarlo for all of his hard work that he's put in. I really want to extend my condolences and prayers to the many families that have been impacted by COVID-19. As you stated, a resident of Paterson but I'm the head football coach at Hackensack High School currently and the support of fall sports and supporting NJSIAA with the great leadership of Colleen McGuire, I think is just you know, paramount at this time.

This is my 31st season as a high school coach. I've coached varsity football and baseball at Eastside High School, Paterson Catholic and now at Hackensack High School. During this span of time, I've coached thousands of kids, some who have made it to the professional ranks, many who have gone on to get college degrees, and become very, very productive citizens here in New Jersey and throughout the United States. And the one thing I will say as a high school coach, the bottom line is the bond that is created in that locker room is something that I can't explain. It's a bond that transcends all areas from race, religion, gender, you name it, and guys always come together. And I think at this time, with the challenges of COVID-19 nationwide and worldwide, and racial unrest here in the country, we need that locker room camaraderie to bring our communities back together. It's part of the recovery that I think we seek as a country, and for us as coaches and administrators creating a safe and structured environment for student athletes will benefit them mentally and physically.

I have a 16-year-old who is going to be a junior in high school this year and I know personally, after three-and-a-half months of being in the house, he had a chance to play in the Last Dance Baseball Tournament. He's pretty excited to be out and about amongst his friends. Our first day of workouts we had over 70 players show up and fill out all the proper paperwork and do what they had to do for safety, and it was almost a party of the smiles through masks. Kids were just so excited to be around each other. The coaches, we hadn't seen each other outside of Zoom calls in so long, it was just that important. I think the structure and as Senator Sarlo said is, we do not want any third-party organizations coming in and taking over without the proper guidelines for our students. And there are organizations out there maybe waiting for us to fold, but I'm pretty sure that many of our athletes will continue to follow the guidelines. I'm in phase three of our football guidelines. It's been pretty exciting to be out there with them every day. It's a little different, but we know that this is much needed.

The kids are energetic, they're enthusiastic, and the community is enthusiastic. I think once we get to the point that we're playing games and getting back is part of building our community back up, when you're talking about just the spirit, the overall spirit and energy that our communities need during this difficult time. So, Governor, please know I believe the New Jersey Football Coaches Association, who I'm in constant contact with as a member, these guys are doing what is best and these are the people that we need to mentor and look over our children on an everyday basis. Something as simple as a lunch and a dinner together can make a world of a difference for many of these student athletes. So I thank you for supporting us. I thank Colleen and the Senator, New Jersey Football Coaches Association for leading the way, because I'm looking forward to a great 2020 football season.

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Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli:… other contagious diseases under control. We've still had to continue our lead testing program for children. We've still worked to prevent drug overdoses from rising, and continued our work to reduce maternal complications and mortality. And in the meantime, we are preparing for the annual flu season.

Because much of the work of public health is to prevent a problem before it begins, its value is sometimes not very evident. The CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said in an interview that his biggest regret was that our nation failed over decades to effectively invest in public health. Since 2010, nationally, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita, and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%, according to Kaiser Health News and Associated Press analysis.

Recognizing our local health partners are facing funding constraints, we have allocated more than 37 million to their work from the federal funds that our state has received. The funds are being used to support case investigation, contact tracers and information technology. Regardless of the challenges we face, public health work is essential, and it must continue. Collecting and monitoring data is vital to guiding this work. The department is committed to bolstering our data efforts because it is critical to understanding and responding to any health crisis, whether it be maternal morbidity or overdoses or COVID-19.

Data can be used to evaluate program impact, to determine appropriate public health interventions, to monitor progress, to determine populations to target for an intervention, to determine barriers to care, to influence public policy and to inform the public. Never before has the importance of accurate and timely data been so essential as in our fight against COVID-19.

As you know from our public-facing dashboards, we collect metrics on cases, deaths, hospitalizations, outbreaks in long-term care facilities, and contact tracing. When dealing with this novel virus, it's essential to have accurate data to inform our response. This data can help public health identify hotspots and areas of increased community spread so proper precautions can be taken. We continually work to enhance our data collection and reporting. We are constantly reviewing positive laboratory reports for duplicates, errors, and for those who are not New Jersey residents, who are often reported as unknown county.

As I referenced on Friday, we saw a large increase in lab reports towards the second half of last week, as well as an increase in those reports of unknown county. As we were investigating, we found that an error by one of our reporting labs led to an increase in these unknown county reports, and almost 300 of these were not New Jersey residents. These non-New Jersey residents have been removed from our running total. Over the past five days, we have seen an average of 400 cases daily, resulting in an RT, as the Governor shared, of slightly over one.

Now moving on to my daily report, as the Governor shared, our hospitals reported 472 hospitalizations with 91 individuals in critical care and 41% of them on ventilators. Fortunately, there are no new reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. Our total remains 55 cases. The ages of the children affected range from 1 to 18. None of the children are currently hospitalized. The breakdown by race and ethnicity of these cases is White 14%, Black 35%, Hispanic 41%, Asian 6%, other 4%.

The Governor reviewed the new cases and deaths. In terms of deaths, the breakdown by race and ethnicity is as follows: White 54.1%, Black 18.3%, Hispanic 20.2%, Asian 5.5%, and other 1.8%. At the state veterans homes the numbers remain the same as they do with the psychiatric hospitals. Our daily percent positivity as of August 13th is 1.65. The North reports 1.27, Central New Jersey 1.30, and the southern part of the state 3.12. That concludes my daily report. Stay safe and remember, for each other and for us all, answer the call. Thank you.

Governor Phil Murphy: Judy, thank you and thank you for reminding us of the other realities in our midst, including a grossly under-invested public health sector over the past decades as a nation, and we're certainly paying a price for that now. Thank you also for reminding us just the Black and Latino numbers of the infant syndrome gets you to 76% of the cases. That is versus approximately a low 30% representation of Black and Latino communities in the general population. And even in the South with a 3% spot positivity rate, even that which is higher than the Central and the North, we have to remind folks, 97% of folks are coming back negative, but we can't let that number get away from us. And the rate of transmission, likewise, uncomfortably snuck back up a little bit. Thank you for all.

Pat, I don't know if when you were at Villanova you'd be aware you'd you wear a law enforcement compliance hat, you do meteorology, bar control on the outside, etc., etc., etc. But great to have you with us. What have you got from the weekend on compliance and other matters, including Atlantic storms?

State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Thank you so much. It's good to have the Senator and Assemblyman here too with us, uplifting. With regards to Executive Order compliance, in Lacey Township, the owner of the Lakeside Diner was cited once again for being open to indoor dining. In Jefferson, the Top Shelf Fitness Center, that owner was cited for being open and having people using his gym. And in Lakewood, Astria restaurant owner was cited for an executive order violation for having residents inside.

To your point, Governor, with regards to the storms, OEM is currently monitoring two disturbances in the tropics, the potential to become the two next named storms, which will be Laura and Marco. We'll know more about that storm in three to five days. And just since we were touching a little bit on sports, the OEM also monitored the Yankees ninth straight win over the Red Sox yesterday, and we'll have further on that series tonight after the briefing. I couldn't resist.

Governor Phil Murphy: Completely uncalled for. Completely uncalled for. A guy who I thought was a friend. So Laura and Marco, we've already had the fastest Js, Ks, and they would be the fastest Ls and Ms ever in terms of naming storms.

State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Laura and Marco. Yes, sir.

Governor Phil Murphy: So stay tuned, everybody, on that front. A political observation but I make the same observation about the Republican Party as well. The Democratic Convention begins today virtually, the unconventional convention. Paul, we had the kickoff breakfast this morning on a Zoom call and tonight you've got a cavalcade of speakers, including the former First Lady Michelle Obama. The Republicans will be at it in a couple of weeks with their own convention, and that sounds like it'll be, broadly speaking, I know they're putting the finishing touches on that as well. But that'll be, broadly speaking, similar in the sense that it'll be Zoom heavy, virtual heavy. Democracy must continue to thrive and flourish in this nation, regardless of which side you're on. Brendan, we're going to start over here. Mahen, we're tomorrow virtual unless folks hear otherwise. And unless you hear otherwise, we'll be together Wednesday at one o'clock. Is that right? One o'clock on Wednesday, again, unless you hear otherwise. Dustin, good afternoon and welcome.

Q&A Session

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Good afternoon. Just a few things on long-term care. Is the administration including long-term care deaths and confirmed cases in decisions on reopening? If so, I would just be curious how that would make sense because that's an isolated population and doesn't necessarily reflect the spread of the virus among the general population.

You said last week that many nursing homes came to the administration and said they couldn't cohort positive patients according to the Commissioner's directive, and that you helped find places for those patients. Can you say how many patients needed that help and where exactly they went?

And the Commissioner just talked a little bit about scrutinizing data. Could she or Dr. Lifshitz explain why the health department is withholding the public reporting of LTC=related deaths that state epidemiologists have reported internally, with confirmation that they are COVID-related?

Governor Phil Murphy: Which deaths, Dustin? What type of deaths?

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Long-term care related deaths.

Governor Phil Murphy: Is that it?

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Yes.

Governor Phil Murphy: Okay, thank you. Your question, I assume, and I'm going to turn this quickly over to Judy and Ed here so we get to the professionals but your question, I assume, when we're making decisions on reopenings, your point was not related to reopening long-term care facilities. It was, to what extent are you including isolated, folks who are in a sort of secure environment in the broader decisions on things like gyms and restaurants. Is that correct?

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Yeah.

Governor Phil Murphy: I think it'd be fair to say listen, we're trying to get to yes on things like gyms, indoor dining, theaters. I can't tell you when, but we are working our tails off. We had a call, I mentioned this on Friday, several of our folks were on a call. Judy, you and I were here, but I think they had 300 gyms on the call together. So the answer is, suffice it to say, we're not allowing realities and Ed and Judy can weigh in here, unless it looks like it's showing something in the broader community that we should be concerned about. We're, I think, sort of parsing through the data.

I don't know how many nursing homes came to us and said that they couldn't take, and how many we ultimately placed, unless you all know that, but we'll get back to you with that info. Do you happen to know that, Judy?

Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I don't have the number, but within 24 hours there were a number of nursing homes that told us that they could not cohort, did not have enough PPE or they had staffing shortages. In fact, I think it was almost 100 in the first 24 hours. In two weeks, it was almost 300.

Governor Phil Murphy: My recollection was the first wave was 90-something, but Mahen, can we come back to Dustin? You want a specific, you'd like to know number of homes and number of people?

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Yes, and locations of where those patients ended up?

Governor Phil Murphy: Got it. I'm not sure I'm qualified or understood fully the third question. Ed or Judy, do you want to come in to this? This is about reporting from the Department of Health on long-term care related?

Dustin Racioppi, Bergen Record: Right, my understanding is that there's a number of LTC-related COVID deaths that have been confirmed internally but have not been reported externally in your briefings.

Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli: I'm going to turn it over to Ed who does the reporting.

Governor Phil Murphy: Hello, Ed.

DOH Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz: Hi, thank you. No, everything that we've confirmed internally that I'm aware of, we've reported out. If you have more specifics as to exactly what you're talking about, I'd be happy to answer, but no, I'm not aware of what you're talking about.

Governor Phil Murphy: Can we connect with you offline? If you've got a specific, Dustin as always will follow up with you. Thank you. Brent, did you want to pile on on the baseball front or not?

Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: No, just the Mets are terrible. So will there be high school sports this fall? Are we still waiting for the NJISAA on that? More than a dozen states have canceled football or pushed it to the spring. Is that possible to happen here? And how can indoor dining be closed, some schools start remotely, college sports be canceled, but high school sports will happen?

Is the transmission rate up because of that dump of out-of-state cases? State officials have called for the resignation of the CEOs of the Menlo Park and Paramus veterans homes, with deaths there being so significant families of residents have lost confidence of leadership there. How do you respond?

How many school districts plans has the state signed off on overall? How many have been approved for remote only? How many plans have been rejected and why? Other than Lakewood, are any other schools planning all in-person and has Lakewood been approved? Why is there a delay on appointing a new Education Commissioner?

And one from Dan Munoz. Any update -- well, you said that, but do you expect restaurants would be able to or even want to prepare for indoor dining reopening, considering it was pulled once before?

Governor Phil Murphy: Did you breathe?

Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: No.

Governor Phil Murphy: Okay, just checking. Will there be fall sports? That's a decision Paul and Benjie and NJSIAA ultimately makes.

Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: They haven't made yet?

Senator Paul Sarlo: There are protocols in place for phase one, phase two and phase three practices gearing up for fall sports. I am comfortable that the NJIT, in our discussions with the Governor and myself and Assemblyman Wimberley, we're heading in the right direction to have fall sports, as long as the metrics continue to stay where they're at. But the NJSIAA ultimately will be issuing the final decision. I'm hoping by week's end you're going to be hearing from them on outdoor fall sports, which is primarily, you know, mostly all fall sports are outdoors.

Governor Phil Murphy: There's only a couple, I believe, girls volleyball and gymnastics are the indoor sports.

Senator Paul Sarlo: That's correct, Governor. There's about 700 to 900 gymnastic participants and a lot of them are specialty athletes who, if we have to move that, that's something we can work with. So just stay tuned. I think you're hearing from us as elected officials and policymakers where we stand, so I'm comfortable Colleen and her team will be coming out with guidelines very shortly.

Governor Phil Murphy: Well said. Anything, Benjie, you want to add or you're good?

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly: The Senator hit it all. I think we've had a lot of guidelines in place from phase one, two and three and I think they'll make a decision real soon that we'll be moving forward.

Governor Phil Murphy: Got it. Indoor dining again, we're trying to get to yes, Brent, that's all I can say on that is we're trying to get there. We're not there yet but we're trying like heck to get there. We want to get there sooner than later. Colleges versus high school, I think if I understood your question, the reality on colleges, and by the way, let me say I think all of us are big college sports fans as well. You've got travel associated with that, including out-of-state travel and in cases, to places that are still raging. I think that's a big difference as compared to in state, and even more than in state, within your region in the state.

RT, I mean listen, a number of things, Ed and Judy, contribute to rate of transmission being up and one of them is a lot of positive cases. But even if you take Judy's 300 and so, and I mentioned this as well, from Bio Reference, that's not even 10% of the cases over the past seven days so it's I think largely based on increased testing and number of positives that are coming back that are legitimately New Jersey based. I think we talked that we kind of expected this when you had days, you know, not that many days ago when you're in the 500, 600, almost 700 numbers, but please jump in.

Again, we have said the leaders of long-term care, either individual facilities, industry leaders, and that includes our veterans homes, everybody's going to be subject to a very explicit, very strict, after-action postmortem reality. The numbers, as I've said many times in this place, God bless our veterans, the first three numbers I look at every day 62, 81, 3. Those are the lost lives in Menlo Park, Paramus, and Vineland respectively. There will be, without question, postmortems, studies, nonpartisan after-actions both for our veterans homes and for the entirety of this pandemic.

I don't have the numbers specifically on the district plans that have been approved, how many are in virtual, how many hybrid, how many are all in-person, but we can get you that. Mahen, if you could help me. This is, as you can imagine, every day that number is changing.

We want to make sure, I think your next question was to the Commissioner of the Department of Education. We're in that process. We want to make sure we get it right. Kevin Dehmer is doing a great job as acting, but we clearly want to get the top position filled and we will. Your last one was restaurants?

Brent Johnson, Star-Ledger: That was from Dan Munoz about, he asked how can restaurants even prepare for indoor dining, thinking it might get pulled again like it did last time?

Governor Phil Murphy: Listen, I shouldn't say never say never but we are keenly aware of the fact that we had to make an abrupt and sadly, it brings me no joy to say this. I know it wasn't pleasant for anybody in the industry but we had no choice. But it brings us no joy to have to make an abrupt decision. So the extent to which we get to yes, I don't think Judy or I or Ed or anyone else will sign on to it unless we believe at that point that we're full speed ahead. Thank you.

Our buddy there has gone. Hold on, Alex, do you have anything sir? Behind the camera, we'll go all the way over to Alex. Brendan is doing the limbo routine there. Alex, Good afternoon.

Reporter: Good afternoon, Governor, and Happy Birthday to your daughter.

Governor Phil Murphy: Thank you very much.

Reporter: A couple questions for you. The Democratic National Convention begins today. Do you feel that it loses anything by being –

Governor Phil Murphy: Do I feel what, sorry?

Reporter: Do you feel that it loses anything by being mostly virtual this year? I mean, I know you were involved in the 2008 convention and I believe you said you're not attending, so I wanted to ask about –

Governor Phil Murphy: I don't think anyone is attending.

Reporter: As far as delivering a speech.

Governor Phil Murphy: I don't believe there's anything in Milwaukee.

Reporter: So I wanted to ask that. I also wanted to ask about vote by mail. Can you just clarify, there's been a lot of chatter on social media over the weekend, clarify that there will be in-person voting in New Jersey? If you want to cast your ballot in person you can, and I wanted to ask you if you think that you should increase the number of places that are doing in-person voting?

And just one last question for Colonel Callahan. Are you aware of a report that there's a restaurant called I believe Astella, I'm probably mispronouncing it, in Lakewood where there was allegedly a large party, citations were given out. But the Ocean County Sheriff's Office is saying that police may have waited until the event was over to make those citations. There were several hundred people there. I just wanted to see if you were aware of that and can speak generally to how uniform enforcement of these executive order violations is across the state? Because you're working with your troopers but also with local departments.

Governor Phil Murphy: Pat, do you want to start with that? I'm not aware of that.

State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan: Yeah, I believe it's a Astria Restaurant in Lakewood was on the weekend compliance report. I believe that the enforcement is very uniform. We do rely mostly on our local and county partners. But when those incidents are reported and police respond and see large gatherings, no social distancing, indoor dining, from all the reports that we get at the ROIC that those executive order violations are issued.

Governor Phil Murphy: To your two questions, convention and then vote by mail. It's certainly different. I was in and out of conventions, I guess now for 20 years, not all of them, but most of them. This certainly has a different feel. I think it's different, however, to be doing this in August with five-plus months of living with this pandemic in the almost natural, am I right folks? It's almost natural to be doing a meeting on Zoom.

So I miss the personal interaction, I think we all do. But if this had been in March and it was abrupt, and it was a complete change of habit, I think it would be a different reality, but we've sort of all gotten used to this mode of communicating and getting together. I still think they've done a great job. I'm not patting myself on the back. I'm the co-chair this thing, but I think the DNC, the Biden camp, have done a great job sort of constructing each of the nights. Just really impressive, huge diversity. And everybody from the nominee and Senator Harris to President Obama, the First Lady, President Clinton all the way to featuring working families celebrating diversity in our country.

The theme is desperately needed, Uniting America, at a time of the ultimate us versus them moment in our history. I could not think of a better theme. So within the context of the reality that we're living in, I think they've done a great job.

Yes, the answer is yes. In our election on November 3rd, there will be both the opportunity to vote by mail, and I'll come back to this and give a little bit more clarity. I think your question begs the point that it's maybe folks need to hear that again and we'll continue to repeat this, or to vote in person. And so what will happen is at latest by October 5th, ballots will be mailed to everybody who's registered. That's on the one hand, and you have the choice when you get that ballot, you've got several choices. Fill it out and mail it back; fill it out and drop it in a secure lockbox in your county; fill it out and walk in on Election Day and hand it to a poll worker. I suppose you also have the option of not voting but we'd ask everybody to please vote.

On the other side of the coin, you could do none of that, show up on Election Day at your polling place and vote in person. That vote will need to be provisional. Parimal will correct me if I'm wrong, because the poll worker will not know necessarily whether or not that person has voted in the mail or not yet, so that box has to be checked to make sure that you're preserving the sanctity of one vote per person.

On the physical side and again, in the primary we gave 30 days' notice. In this case for the general we're giving 81 days' notice, because we did hear rightfully from county clerks that they needed a longer runway for the physical side of this. What will be different there, we will guarantee at least 50% voting capacity in person per county, guarantee at least one physical location per municipality. We will work with the clerks on scanning equipment, on plussing up the workforce that will be involved in either the vote by mail side or the physical voting side. And I think that, Parimal, correct me if I'm wrong, that kind of covers at all. It's not as though we don't have some amount of confidence because we essentially did what I've just said for the primary and we like what we saw. So everyone talks about the Paterson example, which was a local election in May, before we did the hybrid version in July, and I view that data point in Paterson as a positive one. People tried to mess with the system and they got caught and they've been indicted, and that's the way it should be. Have I missed anything or are you good?

Deputy Chief Counsel Parimal Garg: The only thing I would add is that voters with disabilities will be able to show up in person on election day and vote at an ADA-compliant machine.

Governor Phil Murphy: Very fair point. Thank you. Thanks, Alex. Dave, down to you. The only guy here who could understand the notion of a flugel horn in a pop song, in addition to Judy and myself, so thank you.

David Matthau, NJ 101.5: Yes, and thank you for that reference. Governor, a couple of questions. You have created, with the Health department, a new color-coded COVID monitoring system that of course breaks the state down to six regions to better track and respond to possible local spikes when kids start to go back to school. Why couldn't we use the same kind of system? Why doesn't it make sense to do this for Jersey businesses? It's been suggested, because our metrics will basically remain quite low, quite positive, you could try indoor dining at 25% and then if there's a specific problem someplace in the state, you could shut things down, respond to it, and so forth, in that specific area. What is your thought about this? And if you don't like that idea, what specifically is the problem?

A question from my colleague Mike Symons, why order all public schools closed for Election Day. Some towns don't use them anyway, and this year, half of the polling places will be closed and schools are not allowing outside groups in to take tours and so forth like the Cub Scouts to make it as safe as possible to have the bubble in the school. Why invite so many people in for Election Day and then what kind of deep cleaning can occur when the polls don't close until 8:00 p.m. and you may have school open the next day?

And finally, Governor, for you high school sports. The issue here, Paul and Benjie have talked about how high school sports encourage community spirit, keep kids from engaging in reckless behavior. What are your thoughts about this? What do you think high school sports could and would do for New Jersey, especially in the middle of a pandemic? Thank you.

Governor Phil Murphy: So Dave, on the first one, in fact, Mahen, you were not here on Friday, but I promised we would put that color-coded metric up and I forgot to -- that's my bad. Can we make sure we throw it up on Wednesday, just to show folks that? Judy, I thought that was very helpful. All I can say is this. Put aside the differences between how important, vital it is to get kids educated versus the option that you have to go out to eat. I'm going to leave that aside for a minute.

We are trying to get to yes on indoor dining. Let's just leave it there. We're trying to get there, I hope sooner than later. We cannot do what Brent's question, one of his questions, one of his 4,000 questions implied, which is to put the car in reverse once we've made that decision, so we're just being extra careful as we parse that through both for gyms, indoor dining, ultimately theaters, etc.

To Mike's question, Parimal, I'm not sure, other than the obvious schools are where most, but not all, but a lot of our polling places are. Anything you want to add to that?

Deputy Chief Counsel Parimal Garg: Yeah, schools also typically have large spaces such as gymnasiums or auditoriums that can function as polling places where people can stay further apart.

Governor Phil Murphy: I also think as you plan the school year, it's better to be safe than sorry, because we don't know yet where those locations will be. So we should plan as they lay out the school year that we'll be closed that day, under the theory that it could be in your school or not, recognizing that we have the municipalities, the county clerks have not laid out, in all cases, clearly their plan yet.

Listen, I'm hugely of the opinion we need sports. It needs to be responsible and at this point, it needs to be outside. I can't see going inside at this point, yet, and I hope that changes by the time the bulk of the inside sports come around again. I say that with a heavy heart toward girls gymnastics, girls volleyball, which that's an NJSIAA decision, but even in that case, you hope to see something postponed as opposed to canceled. But I think if the sport is outdoors, it's institutionally supported. And again, I'm over my skis here with Judy and Ed on the health front. There just isn't evidence of outdoor flare ups. The flare ups that we've seen at the college level, even at the community level, as far as we can tell, have been overwhelmingly tied back to indoor activities that were away from the athletic activity.

So I'm a big believer that this is net-net, not without risk, has to be done responsibly, has to be done institutionally. I think both of these guys and they should weigh in here, they both alluded to the fact if we don't pursue high school sports, or we only pursue some, there will be other third-party organizations which will fill that void. And with all due respect to those organizations, they won't fill it with the same level of oversight that these folks in the NJSIAA board and operating team can do. Anything you want to add to that, or?

Senator Paul Sarlo: No, that's correct, Governor and to put things in perspective just on the numbers you said earlier, that Last Dance Tournament, there was over 367 games, 222 teams, there are no incidents reported at all. NJSIAA has recently come across some data, they believe it's about 105,000 children have participated in outdoor sports this summer and there's been no sign of any outbreak from those 105,000.

Governor Phil Murphy: That's in New Jersey.

Senator Paul Sarlo: That's in New Jersey, they believe, at varying different competitions. And again, a lot of them were run, some of them were run by recreation departments and through the Last Dance. Some of them were probably run by some club sports and third-party vendors. And to their credit, they did a nice job on it. A great job.

Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, I don't want to cast aspersions on all the third-party folks, but you do take more risk if it's not under your control.

Senator Paul Sarlo: So that's good data points. Great data.

Governor Phil Murphy: Yeah, absolutely. Coach, anything you want to add?

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly: I just think it's important that the sanctions that the NJSIAA have are, I think there's a lot more oversight than a third party and there is disparaging remarks towards third-party groups but we would not have really control over kids coming from out of state to compete in these events and stuff like that. With us, on a local level, you know your kids are going to come from that particular community. The differences between us and college and third party is, at college you can have kids from 20 different states. A third-party group can have kids from all over the country being part of it, so I think that's a major difference.

Governor Phil Murphy: Great point.

David Matthau, NJ 101.5: Can I just ask you to briefly follow up on the idea of what is the value of high school sports with regard to spirit in the community?

Governor Phil Murphy: It's enormous value. Mental health, physical health, teamwork, the camaraderie that Benjie referred to. It's magic. You see it, I saw it. Listen, our kids play so we see it through that lens. We saw it in the Last Dance. You just, you can see it. It's one of those things you can't necessarily define it but you know it when you see it, and it's overwhelmingly positive. Just we've got to do it responsibly and safely. I'm confident personally that we can, but we'll let the right, proper authorities make that call.

So as in every day, I'm masked up. Judy and Ed, thank you as always for being here. Pat, likewise. Jared, Parimal, Mahen and team, and Senator Sarlo, Assemblyman Wimberly. A real treat to have you all here with us. God willing we can find our way through this thicket into some really good outdoor sports in New Jersey this fall.

Again, to everybody out there, thank you for everything you do, overwhelmingly by the millions, by the hundreds or thousands of businesses, if not the hundreds of thousands, folks have continually done the right thing in this state. No state can say that to the extent we can. That doesn't really matter what we up here necessarily say or do, it's what you all out there say and do, and you've been extraordinary. So to each and every one of you, thank you. We'll see you again here one o'clock on Wednesday. God bless.