Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday expressed optimism about the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine in New Jersey, but he urged the state's residents to continue following public health protocols as hospitalizations rise.
"We're still in the thick of things," Murphy said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." The vaccine distribution "is really good news, but I think the next six, eight weeks are going to be really tough in New Jersey and in our country."
"There's a lot of fatigue, a lot of private spread, a lot of holidays, cold weather — all of that is conspiring. So in the near term, I would just beg ... people to do the right things and to keep their guard up," added Murphy.
The governor's comments came as the first Americans outside of clinical trials received a vaccination against Covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine Friday, setting into motion the complex logistics network that allowed for health-care workers in multiple states to get their initial shots Monday morning.
In New Jersey, the first vaccinations for hospital staff will be delivered Tuesday morning at University Hospital in Newark, according to Murphy. The state is receiving 76,000 doses initially, which is enough for 38,000 people to get vaccinated since it requires two shots. From there, Murphy said each week the state will receive "an increased allotment" of Pfizer-BioNTech doses "until it reaches a plateau early year."
Murphy also noted that Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine could be approved soon, with the FDA meeting later this week to review its emergency use authorization application. Should that happen, New Jersey anticipates "another series of deliveries over time from them," Murphy said.
The rollout of a coronavirus vaccine in New Jersey and the country overall comes at a critical juncture. The seven-day average of new daily infections in the U.S. is at a record high of 213,748, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average of Covid-19 deaths per day is 2,403, according to CNBC's analysis, which also represents an all-time high during the pandemic. That is up 9% since a week ago.
Hospitalizations are increasing in 24 states, including New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., according to a CNBC analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.
Murphy said he understands Americans are exhausted by pandemic restrictions, saying "I know it stinks. Who doesn't have fatigue, including yours truly?" However, he called on people to hold small holiday gatherings in December among individuals "inside your bubble," as well as continue wearing face masks and maintaining social distance.
"It's a basic set of principles but they're the ones we have to rely on. New Jersians have been extraordinary. We just need another kick, particularly as we get through the holiday season," Murphy said.