BLACKWOOD, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy abruptly left a press briefing Wednesday after learning that an individual with whom he was in close proximity with on Saturday has tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus). Murphy, 63, was hosting an outdoor press briefing at the student center of Camden County College (CCC) to announce $14 million in funding for workforce development when, 20 minutes into the event, a staff member informed him of the news.
"I [got] tested on Monday unrelated to my being in proximity - because I had no idea until just five minutes ago - and it was negative on Monday. I will now unfortunately have to take myself off the field," Murphy told the audience as he made his quick exit. The governor noted that his negative test Monday doesn't necessarily mean he does not have the virus.
At the event, Murphy stood near Camden County Freeholder Jonathan Young, Congressman Donald Norcross, Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo and others - all wearing face masks and social distancing - prior to the start of the briefing. He elbowed, instead of shook hands with, Norcross and other speakers prior to learning of his exposure.
A few hours later, Murphy's communications director Mahen Gunaratna issued a statement clarifying the Governor's exposure and his plan to quarantine. The statement reiterated that Murphy received a coronavirus test on Monday as part of his regularly-scheduled testing regime, which came back negative. This afternoon, the Governor and First Lady were tested once again and both were negative.
“A member of the Governor's senior staff recently tested positive for COVID-19. Per guidance from public health officials, the individual is currently quarantining at home. We have begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who may have come into contact with our colleague during the potential infection window," said Gunaratna.
"Out of an abundance of caution and in line with the highest levels of commitment to protecting public health, the Governor and First Lady will be canceling their in-person events and voluntarily quarantining through the end of the weekend, and each will take an additional COVID-19 test before they resume any in-person engagements," Gunaratna added. "From the beginning, the Governor's Office has taken every precaution to limit the spread of COVID-19. Today's exceedingly cautious steps are part of that ongoing commitment."
The Governor's office also announced late Wednesday afternoon that Daniel Bryan, senior advisor to the Governor for strategic communications, tested positive for COVID-19. He took the test out of an abundance of caution and remains asymptomatic. The office said that contact tracing process is underway, and anyone believed to have exposure as defined by CDC guidelines will be notified.
"I can’t ask President Trump not to come to Bedminster and do a fundraiser and have me sit here," Murphy said prior to leaving the morning press event. Earlier this month, Murphy criticized President Trump and staff for a visiting New Jersey despite a top aide testing positive for the coronavirus.