After nearly eight months at the helm of New Jersey’s pandemic response, Gov. Phil Murphy announced suddenly Wednesday that he would be heading into quarantine after learning he was exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Murphy, a first-term Democrat, said he had no symptoms of the disease; he was tested Monday and again Wednesday afternoon, both times with negative results, according to his office. First lady Tammy Murphy was also tested Wednesday and will quarantine with the governor. Experts note that it can take five or more days for the virus to appear in a test, however.
At an event Wednesday afternoon Murphy — who had surgery in early March to remove a tumor — said he had just learned that he was “in close proximity to someone Saturday who has just tested positive.”
The governor’s office later identified that individual as Mike Delamater, deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs, who gave permission to be identified and is quarantining at home. Soon after, it announced that senior communications adviser Dan Bryan had also tested positive Wednesday afternoon.
Contact tracing has begun
Murphy’s office issued a statement that read in part, “We have begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who may have come into contact with our colleague during the potential infection window.” But officials declined to say more about what agency would be handling the tracking down of individuals whom the governor and his team may have exposed, informing them of their risk and encouraging them to take steps to curb additional spread.
The statement added, “Out of an abundance of caution and in line with the highest levels of commitment to protecting public health, the Governor and First Lady will be canceling their in-person events and voluntarily quarantining through the end of the weekend, and each will take an additional COVID-19 test before they resume any in-person engagements.”
Murphy is planning to host his regularly scheduled, twice-weekly media briefing on Thursday, but will do so from his quarantine virtually, according to staff. It is not known if other state officials who joined Murphy at the press event Monday will be also be screened for COVID-19. State health commissioner Judy Persichilli, a constant presence at these forums, was not exposed to anyone who tested positive and was at least 6 feet away from the governor, according to the health department. Unlike the governor, who staff said is regularly screened, DOH said Persichilli is not regularly tested.
Murphy made the announcement before abruptly leaving an event on workforce development at Camden County College that featured Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), who is running for reelection. “I will now unfortunately have to take myself off the field. I can’t ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and do a fundraiser and have me sit here,” Murphy said.
Trump announced he tested positive for COVID-19 just hours after returning from a fundraiser at his Bedminster golf club roughly three weeks ago; he has since recovered, but others who spent time with the president the previous week — including former Gov. Chris Christie — would also be diagnosed with the virus.