MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday challenged New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to continue requiring masks for all residents, vaccinated or not, pointing out the state’s 70 percent vaccination rate as well as lingering mental health problems from an ongoing shutdown.
A series of co-hosts on Morning Joe said Murphy now “stands alone” as neighboring states New York and Pennsylvania dropped the mask mandates in most public places following last week’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines which suggested exactly that for vaccinated adults. Scarborough replied to pro-mask critics who support Murphy’s move to uphold the state-wide mandate, saying he’s simply urging the governor to “follow the science” of the new CDC guidelines. He warned public health officials won’t have the “credibility” to reinstitute a possible mask mandate should there be another spike in the fall.
“Follow the science,” Scarborough said. “If we’re telling governors to follow the CDC guidelines when Donald Trump is president of the United States, shouldn’t they follow the CDC science when Joe Biden is president of the United States? Follow the science and do what the CDC says.”
Federal health officials announced last Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear facial coverings in most public places. New Jersey state health data shows that about 70 percent of adults there have at least one dose of the vaccine, a level which nears so-called “herd immunity.”
But Murphy nonetheless upheld the mandate and defended it on CNN Monday, saying, “We’ve been clobbered, not once but twice, and lost 26,000 people. We know the virus is more lethal indoors. And if you’re asking someone working in the hardware store, or in a retail or grocery store, to make the judgment on who’s vaccinated and who’s not, we’re not there yet. We’re close.”
President Joe Biden announced Monday that COVID-19 cases are finally down in all 50 states.
Some critics went after Scarborough for his remarks, with CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis tweeting at the MSNBC host, “I do not understand why @JoeNBC has made masks a hill to die on, next to Republicans. I support @GovMurphy’s care and caution for the health of me and my neighbors.”
Scarborough replied, “I’m boringly consistent. When Republicans are in office, I say ‘Follow the CDC, Dr Fauci, and science.’ When Democrats are in office, I say the same thing. I know it’s maddeningly dull but when it comes to pandemics, I listen to doctors and epidemiologists more than politicians.”
Scarborough urged public health officials to allow kids to return to school, even as he has not personally returned to the MSNBC studio alongside guests. But Scarborough said mental health issues, alongside increased vaccination rates, should be the primary focus of lawmakers and health officials this summer.
Newsweek reached out to Governor Murphy’s office for additional remarks Tuesday morning.