N.J. Gov. says U.S. needs national pandemic strategy with masks “at the core” (Video)

WASHINGTON — Two governors from opposite parties issued warnings Sunday to Americans celebrating the Independence Day holiday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the country, stressing the importance of wearing masks to curb the spread.

In an interview with “Meet the Press,” Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., whose state saw one of the earlier coronavirus spikes, recounted the “enormous price” the state has already paid — more than 13,000 dead from the virus.

Murphy said Americans should continue to follow public health guidelines but also called for a national strategy that he said is imperative to controlling the virus’ spread. The White House has repeatedly deferred to state and local officials, instead offering unenforced guidelines and sending mixed messages on things like masks.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” Murphy said of the state-by-state strategy.

“We went through hell. We cannot afford to go through hell again. We need a national strategy, I think, right now, and masking has to be at the core of that.”

There have now been more than 2.8 million coronavirus cases and over 130,000 deaths attributable to the virus, according to an NBC News analysis. Nine of the worst days for new cases in the U.S. came in the past 10 days, and 17 states reported single-day highs in cases last week alone.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that the rise in infections is a result of an increase in testing. It’s true that America has ramped up its testing capacity in recent months, now testing at least 600,000 people in each of the last five days, according to The COVID Tracking Project. But health experts tell NBC News that an increase in cases can’t solely be explained by testing, and that decreased social distancing has also played a significant role.

“We’ve done this natural experiment a couple of times now. We know that when we go back to living like we we’re not living in a pandemic, we end up with more cases. And those end up in more hospitalizations, which lead to more deaths,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, the medical director of Special Pathogens Unit at Boston University School of Medicine.

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