NEW JERSEY -- Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy has given us several catch phrases during his daily coronavirus update press conferences:

  • Blessed souls (people who have died from coronavirus)
  • The woman who needs no introduction (NJ State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli)
  • Don't be a knucklehead (people who ignore social distancing regulations)

He may have a new one: 

Don’t F* This Up

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Murphy issued the warning on Twitter on Saturday, May 2, following the opening of state parks and golf courses and his request that people maintain social distancing and suggestion to continue wearing masks outdoors. The initial reaction of the Twitter-verse was far from favorable:

  • Thomas J Downey Jr @ThomasjDowneyjr: @NJGov, We will have our Dictator governor ground us if we are bad trying to do our best in this pandemic.
  • Patrick Aiello @Patrick_John_75: @NJGov Hey Unemployment is still not paid. Stop f#/÷%ing it up!!! 5 weeks now since my company laid me off and of Filed with WBR of 713 saying cannot be paid at this time. Rent, car insurance due!

It remains to be seen whether the backlash is representative of the state as a whole, or the opinions of a small, but vocal, minority. 

"I’m all for it. Murphy has had trouble finding the right tone to discuss this crisis from the beginning," said Bill Picard, who administers the SPF and Local Communities COVID-19 Information Facebook group. "I've always felt 'knuckleheads' was an imperfect way of describing people who knowing risk the public’s health, and is less effective than the blunt language this region of the country is used to from its leaders."

"Today, there are 2,912 new cases statewide, which translates to a newly confirmed one every 30 seconds," Picard added. "There was also a new death every 7 minutes. If you want people to take best safety practices seriously, speak to them in language they’ll understand."

Just the day before, on Friday, May 1, Gov. Murphy had tweeted something more subdued:

When the parks open tomorrow, please act responsibly and follow the rules and precautions.

I want us all to be able to enjoy our parks together. What I don’t want to have to do is close them again.

Most people are complying by staying home (as evidenced by empty roads at rush hour), and many are supportive of Murphy's actions (5.5 K "likes" of the post directly above).

Others remain skeptical.

  • Jeffs4653 @Jeffs4653: @NJGov, I'm heading out for a hike now, where I won't see anyone, because I'm sure today and tomorrow will be the only days I can do this. I'll be shocked if they don't close it all up again on Monday. Hope I'm wrong, but I just feel like he's itching to say "I told you so."

Part of the backlash may stem from the delivery of the governor's messages. At his daily press conference on April 29, Gov. Murphy announced that he would allow the reopening of golf courses and state parks, but told New Jerseyans that he was not responding to critics and protestors. Rather, the governor added that he made the decision based on data, science, and the opinions of experts, such as NJ State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.

"Your interventions to me did not matter one little bit. So with all due respect to all pressure that's been out there, we couldn't frankly care."  -- Gov. Phil Murphy (April 29, 2020)

  • Andy Sole @TheSoleRanchNJ: @GovMurphy Your tone is horrendous Governor. As a leader you should learn how to make your point in a more positive way to the residents of our state. We are not your kids in detention. 
  • HonestSchwenk @HonestSchwenk: Exactly, a little tactic would go along way. More like "it's great that parks are open. Please be cautious and socially distance while enjoying this beautiful weather."

On Sunday morning, Murphy expressed satisfaction during a FOX News interview that "Compliance was very high in terms of social distancing and not congregating.”

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