Murphy leaves event after learning of possible COVID-19 exposure
EDITOR'S NOTE This breaking news article has been updated with the latest information.
GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP — Gov. Phil Murphy and the first lady will be isolating for the rest of week after at least two members of the governor's staff contracted the coronavirus.
Murphy got tested on Wednesday afternoon for the second time this week after learning that he had been in close contact with the infected staff on Saturday night. The results for him and his wife came back negative but both will be getting tested again before returning to public events.
Murphy learned the news during an outdoor news conference at Camden County College, which he interrupted to make the announcement before leaving to get the test.
“I can’t ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and do a fundraiser and then sit here,” Murphy said, referring to the event last month where the president visited supporters at his golf club hours before he announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19. While dozens of people connected to Trump and the White House contracted the virus this fall, no outbreak has been linked to the Bedminster fundraiser.
Murphy, who usually takes off his face mask to speak at a microphone, kept it on for this announcement. He said he is not experiencing symptoms and that he came back negative after taking a test on Monday. During a news conference on Monday, he said that the test had provided results in 15 minutes.
Murphy said Wednesday that the person who tested positive had been in “close proximity” to him on Saturday night.
Murphy's office later issued a written statement saying the person was a member of the senior staff, but the statement did not identify the person. The staffer was later identified as Deputy Chief of Staff Mike DeLamater.
"Per guidance from public health officials, the individual is currently quarantining at home," Murphy spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said. "We have begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who may have come into contact with our colleague during the potential infection window."
Later in the day, officials said that senior communications advisor Daniel Bryan also has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Murphy's office said he and Tammy Murphy would be canceling their in-person events and voluntarily quarantining "out of an abundance of caution and in line with the highest levels of commitment to protecting public health."
The news prompted state Republican Party Chairman Doug Steinhardt to call on Murphy's office to describe the "timeline that led to the governor abruptly leaving the stage" and to explain whether the exposure occurred inside or outside and whether he and his staff were masked.
Steinhardt also wondered whether Murphy or his staff were aware of any staffers undergoing a COVID-19 test before attending Wednesday's event.
"As cases spike in New Jersey, Gov. Murphy hasn't detailed any plans for containing the virus. He has constantly chided our citizens for being careless, and now that he's been exposed, owes it to New Jersey to be more open and honest about his exposure as he's been about his response to the pandemic," Steinhardt said in a written statement.
Murphy had been with U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J. 1st District, to announce $14 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to support workforce development programs.