New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy went after President Donald Trump on Wednesday over the revelation that the president withheld information about the severity of the coronavirus, saying that fewer people would have died if the president had been more forthright.
“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,” Murphy said during an afternoon appearance on CNN.
“All of which we did, and we did it about as early as any American state, but we would have done it earlier and undoubtedly would have saved lives,” he said.
The Washington Post published excerpts of on-the-record taped conversations between Trump and veteran journalist Bob Woodward in which Trump conceded on Feb. 7 that the virus that had only just begun to spread in the U.S. was deadlier than the flu, and could be transmitted by particles in the air.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump told Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
In another conversation, on March 19, the president told Woodward that he intentionally played down the threat of the virus so as not to panic Americans.
New Jersey officials reported Wednesday that more than 16,000 people have died in the state since the start of the pandemic in early March. More than 7,000 of the deaths have been among residents and staff of the state’s long-term care facilities. Murphy has come under intense criticism for not containing the spread of the virus among such a vulnerable population.
Since the first Covid-19 case was reported in New Jersey, nearly 195,000 people have been sickened.
The Democratic governor formed an amicable relationship with Trump during the early days of the pandemic and has resisted publicly criticizing the president’s response to the virus. In April, Murphy sat side-by-side with Trump in the Oval Office and thanked Trump for his assistance.
During the CNN interview, Murphy defended his praise of the president at the time, saying he found “common ground with the White House” during New Jersey’s time of need.
But Murphy accused Trump of “sitting on this knowledge” of the severity of the virus.
“Our first case was March 4, we shut the state down within a matter of days to have known what they knew in early February, we would have shut the state within a matter of days in February,” Murphy said.