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Gov. Murphy heckled on live TV interview on Asbury Park boardwalk about coronavirus reopening

NJ.com logo NJ.com 6/15/2020 By Jeff Goldman, nj.com

A heckler got the attention of Gov. Phil Murphy during a live television interview on the Asbury Park boardwalk Monday morning as he discussed the start of Stage 2 of the coronavirus reopening strategy.

While talking with Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s “Today Show,” a man who was off camera repeatedly screamed at the governor about how Murphy has handled the reopening of nonessential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. In one part of the man’s rant, he referred to Murphy as a “traitor.”

“I don’t know if people can hear — we have a heckler yelling about this very thing,” Guthrie said as the man loudly voiced his displeasure with Murphy. “This rage that people feel about businesses not being opened fast enough — it’s real. Why aren’t you moving more quickly? A lot of business owners say it’s kind of arbitrary. ‘Why can I walk to Home Depot with 100 people but I can’t have a meal? '”

Murphy acknowledged he heard the man.

“This guy deserves to say what he wants to say," Murphy said. “But honestly, overwhelmingly the majority of folks get it. We make the decisions — they’re not arbitrary. They’re based on facts and data.”

The state entered Stage 2 of its recovery on Monday with restaurants and bars open for outdoor dining. Nonessential businesses are also allowed to welcome back customers at 50% capacity and child care centers may also reopen. Houses of worship and miniature golf courses also recently reopened.

Essential businesses such as supermarkets, big box stores, gas stations and pharmacies have been open throughout the pandemic.

Asbury Park was at the center of the reopening fight last week when the city council passed a resolution that said its restaurants could offer indoor dining at 25% capacity starting Monday. But a state judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the move just hours after Murphy announced Friday the state was suing the city over the issue.

Murphy has repeatedly said New Jersey is not ready for indoor dining. “We’ll get there,” Murphy said Monday morning on NBC. “There’s no question we’ll get there. We’re just not there yet.”

The governor has pointed to sharp decrease in daily positive tests and hospitalizations when asked to explain why the state is ready to move to the next phase of reopening. As of Sunday night, there were 1,344 patients in 70 of the state’s 71 hospitals due to the coronavirus — an 83% decrease from the peak of 8,045 on April 14. About 402 are in critical care, with 267 on ventilators.

At least 12,625 have died of COVID-19 related causes since March 10. Officials say 166,881 have been infected. Both totals are the second-highest in the nation behind New York.

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Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

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