Health and Science

NJ governor begs people to get vaccinated, warns he'll bring back mask mandates 'if we have to'

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Key Points
  • "The variants are all over our state. I would beg people to get vaccinated," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told CNBC on Tuesday.
  • Overall, Murphy said the coronavirus situation in New Jersey remains mostly in "very good shape."
  • The Democratic governor said he hopes there's no need for New Jersey bring back Covid restrictions, including a mask mandate.
  • "If we have to, we will," he cautioned.
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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday urged the state's unvaccinated residents to get a Covid shot, telling CNBC in an interview that he hopes there will be no need to reimplement public health restrictions such as mask mandates.

The Democratic governor's comments on "Squawk Box" come as U.S. coronavirus cases are rising sharply, while the highly contagious delta variant circulates. However, the recent daily new infection average level remains far below the nation's peak earlier this year.

The rise in infections is particularly impacting areas with low rates of vaccination, according to U.S. officials. President Joe Biden said last week, "Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated."

Murphy used similar language in his CNBC interview Tuesday. "We've got probably 350 folks in our hospital. We keep them in our prayers. But I venture to say, they're all unvaccinated,. So I would just continue to ... plead with people to get vaccinated."

"The variants are all over our state," he said. "I would beg people to get vaccinated, and if they do so, it doesn't mean that you can't get Covid. But it does mean, overwhelmingly, you're going to stay out of the hospital and please God stay alive."

The seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases in New Jersey is roughly 422, up nearly 50% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. However, it is dramatically lower than in mid-January, when New Jersey's seven-day average of new daily infections peaked at nearly 6,200. At that time, the U.S. vaccination campaign was in its early days.

The country's seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases is 34,730, a 47% increased from a week ago, per CNBC's analysis of Johns Hopkins data. The highest seven-day average of new daily infections ever recorded in the U.S. was around 251,000, in early January. Coronavirus cases are increasing in 46 states and Washington, D.C.

Murphy acknowledged the Covid situation in New Jersey has gotten worse recently, but said it's relative.

"The good news is, the overall metrics, if you look at hospitalizations, positivity rates, folks who are severely sick in the ICU, rate of transmission, etc., while it may not be where it was a few weeks ago, these are still largely in very good shape," he said. "We continue to vaccinate several thousand people, if not more, a day with their first vaccine."

Nearly 49% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and 56.1% have had at least one vaccine dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. More than 55% of New Jersey's total population is fully vaccinated.

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can "resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance."

Last week, officials in Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous, reinstated its indoor mask mandate, including for fully vaccinated individuals, as a result of rising coronavirus cases.

Asked whether New Jersey would follow LA County's action on masks, Murphy said, "For the time being, I hope we don't have to do that." In general, the governor said New Jersey does not want to put Covid restrictions, most of which were lifted by early June, back in place. "If we have to, we will," he cautioned.

"I hope ... we're going to be able to stay where we are, but you never say never," Murphy added. "This virus dictates the terms, not us, and we'll continue to watch it like a hawk."

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