TRENTON, NJ -- During his daily COVID-19 press conference on Monday, May 11, Gov. Phil Murphy and NJ State Police Col. Patrick Callahan attempted to clarify some confusion following publication of a letter Callahan sent to school administrators concerning high school graduations ceremonies and car caravans.
Over the weekend, the head of the state police advised school districts that graduation ceremonies and coordinated parades violate 'Stay at Home' orders.
In light of the components of Executive Order No. 107, and in the best interest of the health and safety of the public, in-person ceremonies, including graduations, all parades, including “wave parades,” that invite people to gather at a certain location, proms, and other similar celebrations violate the enumerated conditions of the order, and should therefore be cancelled or postponed until such time as these restrictions are lifted. -- Colonel Patrick J. Callahan State Director of Emergency Management
A reporter asked the governor and the police chief about high school graduations during the Q&A portion of the Monday press conference:
- "Why are schools not allowed to hold those so-called wave parades?"
- "Colonel, are you really going to go after principals who don't cancel these parades and what punishment could they face?"
- "Governor, how can you justify allowing people to play golf when seniors are banned from these drive-by graduations when both are outdoors?"
"I had a feeling it was coming," said Callahan, who added that he had received several questions regarding graduations. "First off, we would never, and we could not prevent vehicles driving by, let's say it's a senior on their front porch with their parents. Those vehicles can go by."
"What we are discouraging -- and the intent of my letter to Department of Education in public and non-public schools -- was directing students to gather on the front lawn of the school, at a football stadium, at a town hall, because what you're doing is inviting them to gather, which is in violation of the EO (Executive Order No. 107)," he continued. "I think there was confusion, that people who are out of their cars, that was the issue."
Callahan said wave parades are a great gesture to give that sense of solidarity, but "when 50 people standing on top of each other on the curb of a hospital or in front of a high school, that's where the problem comes in."
"If people wanted to get in cars and drive to every graduate at a high school across town, and that graduate and mom and dad were on the front porch or front lawn, that is certainly okay," Callahan said. "But it's the summoning of people to gather together for a graduation or that wave parade that I hope I was clear in the letter. I received a lot of feedback on it, so I hope what I just gave clarifies what our intent is."
"We always thought there would be some virtualness around this. We could get there, but I can't promise that. This is dependent on markers that are clear -- that the curve keeps coming down," Gov. Murphy said. "There's nothing like losing someone. That's the loss you can never get back."
"Parents aren't bashful. We have heard from seniors themselves," Murphy added. "For the moment, we can't congregate."
"It stinks. There's no other way to put it. and we feel awful," Murphy said. "But we also got to make sure we don't, by celebrating this year, that we lose somebody. And we can't do that, particularly in the intergenerational spread of this virus."
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