Phil Murphy says no large Christmas parties, Trenton leader calls for “Strong Financial Penalties”

TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has not only made it illegal for you to have more than 10 friends and family members at your home this Christmas, but he’s also now telling you to avoid friends and family period. Full stop.

“We can’t put it more plainly. This is not the year for Christmas as usual or New Year’s Eve as usual. I was on with a labor leader earlier today and I said this is the year for small ball,” Murphy said. “Please, even though I know we all want to, do not hold a large indoor family Christmas gathering or indoor New Year’s Eve party. We cannot take the risk of one or both of those celebrations leading to a spike in new cases and hospitalizations.”

Murphy doesn’t have any real enforcement capability at this time to monitor homes, but a law proposed earlier this year by Shore area Republicans Greg McGuckin, John Catalano and James Holzalpfel could provide the administration with a thermonuclear enforcement option against families hosting large gatherings, a $15,000 fine.

That bill right now is on hold, but McGuckin, who also holds dozens of public pay to play jobs in Ocean County could reintroduce his harsh penalty if Murphy sends the state into another lockdown this winter.  It was pulled from the agenda as cases subsided in the spring, but now, McGuckin could be poised to reintroduce the bill as cases and violations increase.  Co-signer John Catalano said residents better think twice about violating the Governor’s executive orders.

“There must be a stronger penalty for violating the social distancing orders during this outbreak,” said Assemblyman McGuckin. “The strong financial penalties that would be imposed by our legislation should discourage people from hosting gatherings in violation of the prohibition during this crisis.”

“To combat the spread of this disease, we must adhere to the Governor’s orders to stay at home and distance ourselves from our friends and family,” added Assemblyman Catalano.  “We know that socially distancing is hard, but it’s critically necessary to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in a way that would overwhelm our hospitals and result in the unnecessary loss of life. We hope that a substantial fine will make individuals think twice if they are considering to host a party or have friends over.”

But even Murphy has not acknowledged McGuckin’s effort to arm his administration with $15,000 COVID-19 violations, instead, for now he asks  New Jerseyans to stay within their ‘bubbles’.

“This is the year for a small Christmas with those in our immediate family bubble. That means also ringing in the new year with only those in our own household. If we could do this, and we could push ourselves through our pandemic fatigue and into 2021 when our vaccine program will be taking off, hopefully by this time next year we can once again plan for the big get-togethers,” he said. “But if you insist on having that big gathering this year, you’re taking a real risk that when next Christmas or New Year’s comes around, there will be fewer loved ones gathered around your tree or under the ball. Let’s see 2020 off in a way that sets us up for a strong and healthy 2021.”

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli today echoed Murphy’s call for a different kind of Christmas.

“As we approach Christmas and other holiday celebrations, I want to remind people that this cannot be a time of normal holiday gatherings. Although we saw an uptick in cases after Thanksgiving, our hospitalizations appear to be stable, but we must remain vigilant. Wear a mask, practice social distancing, stay home when you’re sick, do not attend large gatherings. Stay within your household bubble. Don’t let the virus come into your house for the holidays. It is an unwelcomed guest,” she said. “As the Governor shared, our hospitals reported 3,607 hospitalizations. There are 727 individuals in critical care and 66% of those patients are on ventilators.”

Source: NJ Senate Press Release.