New Jersey governor says he would’ve shut state earlier if Trump not downplay coronavirus threat

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus response briefing as National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien and Attorney General William Barr stand by at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Phil Murphy, governor of eastern U.S. state New Jersey said Wednesday he would have shut the state down earlier to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus if President Donald Trump did not downplay the virus threat earlier this year.

The Democratic governor’s remarks came after local media reported on Wednesday that Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in March that he wanted to downplay the coronavirus threat to the United States in public.

“I wanted to always play it down, I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward, an author and associate editor for the Washington Post, in an interview on March 19, according to revelations from Woodward’s new book titled “Rage.”

Murphy said Wednesday that had he known, as Trump did in February, that the virus was airborne, he would have taken more aggressive measures to fight the pandemic.

“If we had known that earlier, we would have shut the state meaningfully earlier,” said Murphy on CNN.

“We would have gone to a mandatory masking policy meaningfully earlier. We would have had a stay-at-home mandate put in place, all of which we did and we did it about as early as any American state, but we would have done it earlier and undoubtedly (it) would have saved lives,” the governor continued.

At a White House event on Wednesday afternoon, Trump defended his remarks in the Woodward book, calling himself a cheerleader for the country and arguing he did not want to create panic.

“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country. And I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say, and certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy,” Trump said.

The United States ranks the first in the global coronavirus tally with a total number of over 6.35 million infections and a death toll over 190,600, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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