Victory in Spite of All Terror

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Andy talks with Governor Phil Murphy about the type of wartime leadership needed in New Jersey as the death toll rises in his state, and we hear a rare interaction where Andy and the governor mobilize resources together to save lives. Taking inspiration from courageous leaders from world history, Andy and Phil calmly discuss how to lead through this pandemic. 18-year old Zach brings us a surprising fact, and the case is made for masks as a part of daily life.


[00:01] Winston Churchill: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory, however long and hard the road may be. But without victory, there is no survival. 


[00:36] Andy Slavitt: Hi, this is Andy Slavitt. And welcome to the second full podcast of In the Bubble. We’re going to be speaking today with Phil Murphy, who as the governor of New Jersey is leading the state with the second largest death toll that is rising every day. So I thought about this conversation with Phil. The person that came to mind was the voice that you just heard, Winston Churchill, who was the prime minister in London before, during and after the attacks by the German forces at a point in time when victory appeared to be something that nobody believed could happen. I’ve said before when asked what I want this podcast to be, that I think of it as 50 percent Fred Rogers and 50 percent Winston Churchill. 


[01:26] Andy Slavitt: Our first episode with Mark Cuban — which if you haven’t listened to, please do — really was about the helper element of what we need to do. Today’s conversation, I think, does harken to a time of leadership during uncertainty. Of a time when we have to call people to sacrifice. Of a time when people are facing great uncertainty, and we must figure out how to manage our way through it. So as you’ll hear from my conversation with Governor Murphy, who is a really regular guy thrust into the midst of an enormous crisis, having to lead on the ground, why the words of Churchill? Why the words of sacrifice? And why the words that stir us can often help us get through this? So while none of us are going to be saved by empty words, and while our lives may be significantly challenged, I know that these forms of inspiration at least play some role, at least for me, in how we think about managing this crisis. 


[02:35] Andy Slavitt: I think a really tricky question is: how do you talk to people who don’t see what you see? And I actually got that question on Twitter last night. How do you talk to someone in your own family, or a friend who thinks that it’s overblown, or maybe it’s a hoax? And I will tell you how not to handle it, which is how I handled it last week. And if you pretty much do the opposite from what I did, I think you’ll be fine. There was a local state senator who had an online town hall. And in that town hall, sitting elbow-to-elbow with another state senator, he said that this was no worse than the flu. And that, in fact, this is overblown. And he was saying this to a number of people who trust him because they elected him. He also happens to be a physician. So what I did is I hunted down his phone number as soon as I heard it, and called him up with every intention of walking him through why it was dangerous for him to do what he was doing. 


[03:39] Andy Slavitt: Here’s a confession. We ended up in a big argument. The kind of argument where I cut him off like three or four times. I should have known better. And I would suggest that you take any other approach than that approach. Do the opposite. Listen. People need to feel heard, and if they are coming from someplace where they don’t feel like they’re being heard, I think you end up aggravating the situation even further. It doesn’t help to bully people or give them facts when they’re not in that frame of mind. So on that note, I’m welcoming my son Zach, who is here producing the show with us. So, Zach, did you come across any interesting facts this week that you think people are generally not aware of? 


[04:26] Zach Slavitt: Yeah, I did. I just actually found out from the Los Angeles Times that actually men are more likely to both get sick with the Coronavirus and to actually die of the Coronavirus than women. By 75 percent, they are more likely to die than women in Italy. 


[04:47] Andy Slavitt: So the source of that, you said was the Los Angeles Times, which is for most people, it’s a reputable paper. Did they have a source for that quote? 


[04:55] Zach Slavitt: Yes, from a report put out by the Italian health authorities. 


[05:00] Andy Slavitt: The Italian health authorities. So that’s a fact. Doesn’t make me very happy. Nonetheless, it’s a data point. So, look, six months from now that that may not be true, right? The numbers may look different, right? But as of now, that’s what we know. And you sourced it to a source. That sounds pretty reliable, right? 


[05:20] Zach Slavitt: Yeah, and it matches with the same data from China. And unfortunately, the U.S. is not tracking men versus women at the moment. So we don’t know. 


[05:28] Andy Slavitt: So we’re not collecting that data yet. Well, thanks, Zach. So we’ll be doing these Zach’s facts every once in a while, because I get to hear them all day long. And it’s a lot of things that you don’t know. So we’re welcoming the 56th governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, became governor in the most recent election and I’m guessing this is not what he had in mind for his term when he signed up. How are you, Governor? 


[05:55] Phil Murphy: Andy, I’m hanging in. It’s good to be with you, although the topic is as grave as it gets, but I’m honored to be with you. 


[06:01] Andy Slavitt: I want to talk in a second about what it is you most need, because I think the people listening to this podcast, the number one question they have is how can I help New Jersey? But I want to start a little bit more basically. How is your family doing and how are you doing? 


[06:15] Phil Murphy: Thank you for asking. We’re doing fine. I mean, I’ve got four kids who are all remote learning, three in college, one in high school. My wife is working full-time from home, spending most of her time working on a newly organized pandemic relief fund, which is off to a terrific start. And God knows we’re going to need the help. And I’m doing fine. I had — completely unrelated to this — I had a fairly major operation in early March. So it turned out to be the day that we acknowledged our first Covid-19 case in New Jersey. So I’ve come back to work a little faster than I had anticipated, a little bit harder, but so far, so good. And I appreciate your asking. 


[07:00] Andy Slavitt: Your health is incredibly important. As we have this conversation, Boris Johnson, the prime minister in the U.K., is in the intensive care unit. And I’m wondering how you make sure to keep yourself reasonably protected while still being visible and forward and out there for the people in New Jersey. 


[07:19] Phil Murphy: Yes, it’s a hard balance. So we’ve all begun now — I’m not wearing a mask right now, but we’ve disinfected this entire operation here. And I wear a mask when I go outside of my office. There’s a bare-bones group of folks working with me in the office. So we’re keeping our social distance. Driving in a bigger vehicle, so there’s more distance between the state trooper and myself. I do very few events. I mostly work the phones, or am Skyping as we are now. I do a press conference six days a week, and again, keep significant distance from anybody else. Rare outings other than that. I’m going to tour a field medical station built by the Army Corps with our state troopers tomorrow. But that is a rare event for me right now. I’m mostly in my office and/or at home on the phones, staring down the barrel of a camera as I am right now. 


[08:15] Andy Slavitt: And I did get a chance to see wearing your mask, and I’m interested in that decision. President Trump said he felt it wouldn’t work to wear a mask behind the Resolute Desk. I happen to know that your desk in the governor’s office is also quite nice. I’m sure it does feel odd. But how do you feel about that decision? I’m not going to ask you what the president ought to do or not do because he’s got to make his own choice. But is this something that you see more government officials and leaders doing? 


[08:43] Phil Murphy: Yeah, I think so. And I’ve got a pretty cool — I’ve got Woodrow Wilson’s desk from when he was governor, so you’re absolutely right. Listen, I defer to the president in terms of how he wants to handle this. It’s hard to speak at the press conferences, at least I find it really hard to speak and make sure folks not just understand audibly what I’m saying, but also that they get the sense of the emotion around what I’m saying. So I’ll walk into our press conferences with a mask. I’ll take it off as I am now to speak. But I remind everyone that I put it back on when I’m leaving, and I’ll continue to do that. And that tour that I mentioned tomorrow, I will be masked up for that. Listen, if this is what the CDC thinks, Andy, I think you’ve got to lead by example. And New Jersey is as hot a spot as there is in the country right now other than New York, and we’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything we can to flatten the darn curve, as you and I have spoken about before.


[09:37] Andy Slavitt: Yes. And, you know, we make the suggestion to people that wearing a mask is not only a way to protect yourself, but it’s actually a way to demonstrate courtesy to people in your communities that you care about them. If you have Covid-19 that are asymptomatic, you’re going to make sure you don’t spread it to them. And I think that’s a great signal. I would like to see either Springsteen or Bon Jovi design one of your masks for you. Because I think then it’ll be a collector’s item and very cool. 


[10:03] Phil Murphy: Note, note to file on that one. That’s a great, great idea.

[10:08] Andy Slavitt: Let’s move to something more serious. We’re all watching what’s happening. You’ve crossed 1,000 who’ve lost their lives in New Jersey. What do you need? What do you most need right now that people can help you with? 


[10:19] Phil Murphy: You’re one of the guys I’ve looked to for leadership on this, and in many respects we’re ripping pages out of your playbook. It’s a war, period. And it’s a war with two concurrent fronts. So what we need on one front is for all 9 million New Jerseyans to continue to stay at home. That’s the number one ask I’ve got. They’ve got to continue social distancing. There’s the faint beginnings of a trend in our testing that looks like it is beginning to approach that flattening. In other words, the positives are still going up positives, I think we are running about 43 percent. So 43 percent positives, 57 percent negative, plus or minus a percent or two. And remember, in New Jersey, we don’t have enough testing materials to test everybody universally. So we have prioritized symptomatic folks. So these folks are all or virtually all symptomatic, meaning they’re less healthy than the average Joe in New Jersey right now. So one big ask is, everybody, please stay home, keep helping us even when we see some progress. My concern is whether it gets a little bit better. We see a little bit of progress. We’ve got Passover and Easter and then Ramadan. We’re the most diverse state in America. All those a big deal holidays in the respective faiths. I need everybody to stay home. That’s one front. 


[11:42] Phil Murphy: The other front is healthcare capacity. And I’m going to leave testing aside for a minute, because that would be on my wishlist as well. And particularly once we flatten the darn thing and break the back of it, to do the contact tracing that we’re going to need to do. The testing reality is going to have to change. But put that aside for a second. We need beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment, more healthcare workers. We don’t have enough of any of that at the moment. We’ve got plans for all four, and we’re trying like heck — we’ve been at this since January to stay out ahead of it. But that is the reality. Those are the four on the other front, in terms of healthcare capacity, that’s the challenge. So my huge aspiration is for the curve to flatten under the lines of capacity on the other front. That is what we’re trying to get to right now. And it’s a war minute-to-minute, literally.


[12:35] Andy Slavitt: So what I hear you saying is the best chance that your nurses and doctors and hospital system capacity have is if people stay home so the spread could be reduced. And as you said, and I’ve seen some of the same data, there is evidence that what you put in place a couple of weeks ago, a little longer than a couple weeks ago, is starting to have potentially its early effect. And I think that should be encouraging to folks in New Jersey, and anywhere else in the country, that they are making the biggest difference on behalf of the healthcare workforce. When I talk to New York, the thing that they tell me now that they’re most worried about is their healthcare workforce, respiratory therapists, nurses, and that they’ve just been running people so hard, and they’ve been through such difficulties, seeing so much death, so much loss. How’s your workforce holding up? Can anybody do anything to help you buck them up or bring in some reserves? 


[13:31] Phil Murphy: Listen, I quoted Churchill at one of our recent press conferences after the early stages of the Battle of Britain when he was referring to the RAF pilots. And you know, the quote, something that I’m going to butcher it, but never have so few done so much for so many. And I said it’s ironically right now for us both directions. So the healthcare workers are our heroes. And they are at the frontlines battling this on behalf of the rest of us, the rest of the 9 million of us. But at the same time, the 9 million of us have the responsibility in our hands to flatten the damn curve, to make sure that we can spare the healthcare workers at the front lines. So it really cuts both ways. We’ve put a call to arms out, Andy. We’ve got a website So a shameless commercial for that. It’s filled with different pages within that. Everything from you lost a job, you’re a small business, I want to know if I can test my symptoms, ask a scientist. But there’s also a volunteer page. And there’s a PPE donations page. So we’ve put the call out. We need volunteers.


[14:37] Phil Murphy: So there’s a massive matchmaking reality going on right now between folks who have raised their hand and then the listings of where we need what specialties in what geographic locations, or specifically in hospitals. So our healthcare workers are our heroes and they’re beaten up. I mean, they are beat up. And they’ve paid the ultimate price in some cases. We’re not quite New York. We’re probably a week behind, if I had to measure this. But they are heroes and they are worn down. 


[15:05] Andy Slavitt: So one of the things that I’m going to do immediately after this recording is we’ve launched a web portal called While at Home. It’s a national web portal for everything people need, including volunteer opportunities, including donations, but also including services for them. We’re going to put immediate link up to your site through that portal. It has places for people to donate gear. It has places for people to donate their own medical services. It has places for you to do real, actual, tangible things for the workforce, like child care, like bring them meals, like all kinds of things. So we’ll make that link happen. 


[15:41] Phil Murphy: I love that and thank you on behalf of all nine million of us here in Jersey. That’s a huge deal, Andy. Thank you.


[15:46] Andy Slavitt: You keep telling us what you need. We tend to think that if we’re not directly serving patients, we all damn well better be helping. I want to talk about some of the interdependence that you have. And I don’t want to do this in a political way, but I want to talk a little bit about what it’s like to work with the Trump administration. You know, you’ve been managing to get resources from the Trump administration. Maybe you could talk a little bit about what that process is like. 


[16:10] Phil Murphy: I’d be happy to. And again, I’ve said this, I don’t mean this blithely, or I don’t mean to slough this off. I have to leave history to the historians. We all owe it to ourselves as a country, frankly as a state, and our own actions to do a full, transparent, thorough — apolitical, by the way, apolitical — postmortem. Much like one of my mentors, Governor Tom Kaine here in New Jersey, chaired with Lee Hamilton for 9/11. So I’m just going to put that aside. We all have to learn from this, both nationally and each of our states, and probably each of our hospital systems, and manufacturers, et cetera. We’ve been able to find common ground. There’s one president, there’s one vice president. And we don’t get to wake up every day, pick a president. We have been able to find common ground. I’m grateful for the support they’ve given us. We still need more. I have to keep saying that. You know, we’ve gotten a bunch of ventilators and I’m grateful for that. We need more. We’ve gotten slugs of PPE. We need more. They’ve helped us out with beds just recently, gave us access to the USNS Comfort, which is going to help us. As I mentioned, they’re helping build two testing sites with FEMA. So they’re gonna go at least till the end of May. And that’s a big deal. There’s not one call we’ve made that hasn’t been answered. But again, you know, the federal government has to play, in so many respects, in this one, certainly more than any other ever been around. There’s only one big gorilla that can play that outsized role. And that’s where you need the federal government right now as big as it can be. There’s no substitute for it. We’re going to need similarly an outsized-gorilla role as we rebuild our economy and our society, which is a separate crisis that we’re going through. It’s a good relationship in the sense we’ve found common ground, without question. We’re constantly in need of more. And God willing, we’ll be able to find it. I have to say, from moment one, they have not dodged one call or one ask. Again, even if it may take longer or it’s a fraction of what we asked for, there’s an answer.


[18:09] Andy Slavitt: That’s great. I think one of the things that you point out is there’s a season for politics, but the season for politics isn’t a contagion that spreads among our entire species. Because we’re not competing with China, we’re not competing with political parties. We can all spread this to one another. And I think that’s a great example that you’ve set. 


[18:29] Andy Slavitt: It’s time for a break. In the Bubble has a team of producers and editors and composers that bring you the show every week. Please help support the creation of the show by going to by signing up to pitch in wherever you can. You’ll also get exclusive show content and any profits that come to Zach or I will be donated directly to Covid relief. 


[20:01] Andy Slavitt: Let me ask you about another interdependency. New Jersey is — there’s so much cross-border traffic to both Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and New York. So to that extent, it feels like, as we get out of this, you are going to be highly dependent upon the policies that the governors of those states, and the mayors of those bordering cities, put into place as well. How do you deal with that? If you did a perfect job in New Jersey containing the virus and making things work. you’ve got all those commuters and that’s got a complex things.


[20:34] Phil Murphy: Yeah. No question. So I just was on the phone with Andrew Cuomo on this very topic. Ned Lamont and I were texting. I just sent a note out to Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania saying I’d love to speak to him. And the theme is a fairly straightforward one, even though this is incredibly complex and the numbers are staggering, including financially, we all compared notes and I wouldn’t say exactly use the same playbook, but we were harmonized. And that’s probably a word that best captures that. We gave each other a heads up. We were broadly in line with each other as we shut our states down. And we are making the same commitment to each other that we have to have that similar harmony as we begin, whenever that is, responsibly, slowly but surely to get back on our feet again and open up again. If you’re New Jersey, densest state in the nation, across one river, the largest market in the world, across the other, one of the fastest growing markets in America. You add to that Delaware to our south. You add the Connecticut piece, even though we don’t abut Connecticut, the commonalities are overwhelming. You’ve got to be coordinated, both shutting down and reopening. 


[21:44] Andy Slavitt: If there was one ventilator — since you in New York are both short ventilators — and you wanted it. And Andrew Cuomo wanted it. That would imply that the price is going to go up, or that you’re going to be competing even though you’re trying to collaborate. And I’m especially worried about this in a situation of a state that believes Billy Joel is a better musician than Bruce Springsteen, which makes it very hard to rely on the goodwill of them. 


[22:10] Phil Murphy: Yeah, you stumped the band with that one. I like them both. I’m a fan of both, by the way, as well as Mr. Bon Jovi, who you referred to earlier. Listen, this is a reality. We have not been able to find reliable private sector sources for ventilators. It’s just a fact. I can’t tell you how many different leads we’ve run down, similarly for personal protective equipment, although that’s been a lot more fruitful. I think we’ve bought now well over 10 million pieces as a state. This is a line of business we weren’t in six weeks ago. Gobs of money. Tens of millions of dollars. But yeah, we’re out there bidding up the prices, competing with each other. And I’m grateful for what we’ve gotten out of the federal stockpile, but also the states that feel like they’re over the hump or may not have to face the crisis that we in New York have faced, where you’ve got governors contributing back into the stockpile, grateful for all of that. But we’re in a world of scarce resources. And again, there’s nothing like — particularly in a crisis, and in this case, a healthcare crisis, there’s nothing like the 800-pound gorilla role that the federal government can play and must play. 


[23:17] Andy Slavitt: We have identified what we think are ventilators in places that aren’t being used. And we’ve been calling CEOs of hospitals to see if they will move them. We’re coordinating with FEMA. So after this call, we can talk further about that. This is a lonely disease. Sadly, people who’ve lived incredible lives and given so much to this country are often in a position where they live their last breath in the intensive care unit, oftentimes without family around them. At some point, I know we’re going to figure out as a country how to mourn. And that’s not something we can do what we’re trying to save lives. But how have you thought to honor people who we’re losing? 


[23:55] Phil Murphy: It’s hard. First of all, I got to give you a shout-out. Because I got the idea from you. We announced last Friday our flags are at half-mast for the duration of this crisis. Just because we have to find some way to remember the toll here, which is now well over a thousand people in our state who have passed. We broke through an extraordinary mark on Saturday. We’ve now got meaningfully hundreds more folks who have passed away, then passed away on 9/11. And New Jersey was the second-hardest hit state behind New York. I make a lot of calls each day. I refer to two or three folks who I talk about, put their picture up at our press conference, give a little bit color to making sure this never becomes abstract. We also, by the way, each day speak about a couple of heroes out there who are — everybody’s a hero, including those who have passed — but heroes who are still with us, who are doing extraordinary things. But it’s really hard, Andy. And by the way, we’ve prohibited any gatherings. So that includes funerals. Now New Jersey has got as good a character and backbone as any state in America, but we’re also darn creative. So you’ve got drive-by memorials, where folks are driving past a home where someone grew up or lived, or a funeral home. Or a fire station in terms of a lost firefighter. It forces you to do things in a way you never thought you’d have to do it. And as you said, when this is — when we’re through this, whenever that is, we have to find a way to make sure we honor and memorialize everybody who’s gone. 


[25:32] Andy Slavitt: You know, as I listen to you, I realize the extent to which the country looks to voices like yours, and a handful of other leaders in this time where everybody’s feeling very uncertain and a lot of anxiety. And of course, they can’t count on their typical support structure to be around them during this time. So voices like yours in the daily press conferences you give become this new and important ritual. You quoted Churchill before. How do you find your voice and your tone and the way to steer through both the challenging situation with an eye on winning, succeeding at a time like this?


[26:12] Phil Murphy: Well, listen, I will be the first to admit I don’t always get it right. There’s no playbook for this. This is unlike anything any of us have lived through. By complete coincidence, I stumbled upon a book about Churchill and Great Britain in the early phases of World War II. And again, if I had that part of Churchill’s fingernail’s worth of leadership mettle, I’d be a happy guy. But that period has really struck me in the sense that Germany was an overwhelming threat. This is a spring of ‘40 to the spring of ‘41. They had obliterated the continent. France had surrendered. It was quite clear they were going to attack either by air or by sea. The U.S. was not in the war yet. You had millions of Brits who were shaking and full of anxiety and you had a leader who had to balance being straight with them.


[27:09] Phil Murphy: No happy talk, but at the same time reminding them that if they all did their share, that together they would win. And getting that balance right seems to me the obligation we have right now. That we’ve got to be straight with folks. When you have the loss of life that we have, when you have the testing that we have, and the devastation, the economic, loss of jobs, small businesses, you’ve got to shoot straight with people, and make sure that they know exactly what they need to do to get out of this. And on the other hand, I think you’ve got to equally not just make sure at every step this is never abstract, but she got to give people a realistic path. If we do X, Y and Z, we will win this. This is a war that we will win. As long as you all do what you need to do and we do what we need to do, we will get through this. Not without casualties. And that’s where I think we try to add a humanity to this. But I think that’s the balance you’ve got to get. So you got to acknowledge the enormity of the task at hand, and at the same time give people the absolute sense, from the heart, with great conviction, that there is a path to victory and that we will win this together. 

[28:20] Andy Slavitt: You know, my encouragement to people listening to this podcast is gonna be to find those voices that do exactly what the governor is saying. Give you strength, give you honesty, give you a straight story. But it’s not an overwhelming news chyron of numbers and things that overwhelm you. Find those voices like Governor Murphy, who will explain it truthfully and talk about the path and help us appreciate what we’re sacrificing. I know you’ve got to go. You’ve got an incredibly busy day. So I just want to ask you a couple more questions. If you can look ahead to say the fall, when we will have hopefully flattened the curve and maintained at least some of the benefits from social distancing. It’s unclear what else will be different. It’s unclear whether we’ll have good therapies by then. But over the summer and fall, there’s gonna be a great urging by people, by politicians, by sports teams to try to get back to normal. And with an election in the fall, I suspect there’s going to be a great amount of push from Washington to try to get back. And I’m sure you’ve seen the same models I have, which show that if that’s done too early without proper care, you can end up with what they would call a second spike of cases and deaths. Having lived through this once, nobody wants to go through it again. But you’ve got schools. You’ve got great universities in Jersey. How are you thinking ahead now? Do you have any bandwidth? Do you have people on your team who are helping you think through how you might get to that?


[29:54] Phil Murphy: Yeah, we are. Although, as you can imagine, you and I have talked about this, when the house is on fire, it’s really hard, with a limited workforce, to be thinking about what the new addition is going to look like when you build it in the fall. So that’s a little bit of a human relations/human nature challenge. As usual, you’ve got it exactly right. The order of events here has got to be right. And if we get the order wrong, or if we get the speed wrong, we could be throwing gasoline on the fire. So I’m not smart enough to know when it is we break the back of this curve. But I know that’s job number one. And that is we bring that curve, not just breaking the back of it, but on the backside of it, bringing that down. Taking the responsible steps to reopen. I’ve been on a lot with our friend Neera Tanden and reading the bible that the Center for American Progress is putting out. For instance, what sort of infrastructure do you have to have in place? She and I spoke last night, which is part of the reason why Governor Cuomo and I and our fellow governors were on. We want to think through this regionally, including, you know, things like contact tracing that is at least harmonized. So that you break the back of it, bring it down, think through responsibly how you reopen things. It’s a basic example, Andy. But one of the sort of things that I’ve used as an example of can we see the following: a restaurant with somebody at the front door with one of these instant thermometer checkers for your temperature.


[31:23] Phil Murphy: You’ve got servers wearing masks and gloves. You’ve got a regular protocol as it relates to disinfecting. You’re mandating at most 50 percent capacity with a minimum of X feet between tables for a period of time. You could see that. I mean, you gotta have hyper contact tracing, which we didn’t have at the beginning of this as a nation. You know, I worry about lower common denominator states. You know, we got there quite, early along with New York and a few others. What about the states and folks coming from those states that didn’t. I’m hoping, like you are, that we’ll have therapeutics that are not just normally prescribed for X, let’s try it for Y, but they’re actually prescribed for this. And that the talk around scaled safe vaccines that really work a year or a year and a half from now, you’ve forgot more about that than I’ll ever know. That’s my hope, that that’s realistic, and that’s sort of the sequence of events. I think if we succumb to any pressure to just let’s get back to business as usual so we can feel good, my fear is that that’s a big — that’s asymmetric risk, let me put it that way. I know there’s more economic risk the longer you hold off, and that’s pain that’s real. For people, states, by the way, we need help as well. But the asymmetric part of that risk is I think the healthcare risk dwarfs the ongoing economic pain as long as the federal government and Congress could continue to be there with some kind of safety net. 


[32:48] Andy Slavitt: You got some of the greatest biopharmaceutical talent in the country in New Jersey, and giving them time to do their jobs by staying home is equally important to what they have to do. And I think this is the pull together message that you have. When we’re off, I want to make sure to text you a couple of other resources. We’ve launched a focus in New York City to focus on how to keep the most vulnerable populations safe. And we’ll send you some information about that and some of the other things you brought up. So I just want to finish by asking one final question, which is when this is all over, and life has a little bit back to normal, what’s the one personal fun thing you most look forward to doing again that you haven’t had a chance to do during this time?


[33:29] Phil Murphy: Yes, I’ve got the double whammy of having had fairly major surgery, so I’m still working my way back. I’m hoping to actually be able to run for the first time in the next day or so. And then you’ve got on top of that Coronavirus. So one of the things we do as a family is we play sports a lot together, and that’s been really hard to do. So I’m looking forward to my wife and our four kids having a family soccer game, which will be high on our list. You know, getting out to a favorite restaurant, seeing a movie at some point down the road. A sporting event, we’re big sports fans. But again, I think the risk, sadly, is asymmetric. We’ve got to be really careful and have those aspirations, and we will get there. There’s no question we’ll get there. But let’s make sure we get there in the right way at the right time. 


[34:15] Andy Slavitt: Well, thank you so much, Governor. It’s truly an inspiration to watch you lead on the ground and keep the calm. And if there’s anything anybody in this country can do for you, we will try to find it and get it to you.


[34:27] Phil Murphy: Andy, I can’t thank you enough. Keep up the great work, because you’re a guy we look up to at this time of crisis. Thanks for everything you’re doing. 


[34:34] Andy Slavitt: Thank you, Governor. All right. Wow. Thank you for listening to my conversation with Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey. So I want to actually close by talking about what happened immediately after that conversation with Governor Murphy. And this is where this is a different kind of podcast, because as you could tell from our conversation, I wasn’t just interviewing Phil Murphy. 

[35:45] Andy Slavitt: I was trying to figure out ways that we could all help him. Ways that you listening to this podcast and ways that I specifically could help him. And it actually reflects a lot of the conversations that I have every day for people who are on the front line, as he very much is. So I followed up that conversation immediately with a text, which basically said, thanks for the conversation today. I have four follow-ups in four separate texts. Number one, vents. Number two, protecting the most vulnerable. Number three, telemedicine. Number four, the opportunity to have others pitch in and support New Jersey on our WhileAtHome site. He responded to me and I then sent him fairly lengthy notes, five suggestions on how he could get vents right away, including the email and cell phone numbers. Things that will immediately reduce the case fatality rate by focusing on underserved populations. Something that I think could help get more telemedicine into the state, which I think would be helpful to people. And finally, to help get these links up to the site in New Jersey, which I pledged to do by today. And he, in each case, connected me with someone on his staff who I then connected with the right resources. And what I’ll do is by the end of the day today, I will check up and make sure that all those loops got followed through. And this is really kind of a bit of a lesson in how we manage a crisis. 


[37:12] Andy Slavitt: One thing other I think was interesting is one of the topics of the week here has been masks. Should we or shouldn’t we wear masks? And I think the real question is not should we or shouldn’t we? But what color masks should we wear when we wear a mask? Because I think as a sign of courtesy and respect to others, this idea of wearing a mask really communicates that we care about them and we’re not going to spread this condition asymptomatically, if we have it. So I was surprised this morning when I got on the Zoom with Governor Murphy that he was indeed wearing a mask, and it was kind of neat. So I think masks are a thing that are coming just around the corner. And we recorded a conversation with someone who’s been studying this topic. 


[37:57] Jeremy Howard: My name is Jeremy Howard. I’m a research scientist at the University of San Francisco. I particularly specialize in analyzing medical data to see what it tells us. And the last week’s been a bit crazy because I decided for my class I was teaching to analyze the data around mask use. And my students convinced me to put the lesson online, and it kind of blew up. Turns out that all of the evidence we have suggests that the health policy being done currently mainly in the West, which is don’t use masks unless you have symptoms, or you’re a hospital worker, is not at all supported by any scientific evidence or data that I found. So the best guidance I would suggest right now is that everybody should wear a mask whenever they are in public. They should not wear an N95 respirator mask. Those are only required during what’s called aerosol generating procedures, which are specialized hospital procedures. The reason for that is that these procedures actually end up with free-floating virus particles that aren’t in liquid. That doesn’t happen at home, you know, unless you’re out of the shops doing some surgery when you’re down at Costco, there’s no point wearing one of these. But any kind of cloth barrier in front of your face will protect the people around you from the infectious droplets that might be coming out of your mouth, because the time you’re most infectious is actually the time when you probably don’t have symptoms. It’s the early days of infection. 


[39:26] Jeremy Howard; The primary purpose of wearing a mask is to protect the community. When I started wearing a mask, it felt awkward. And so I felt like, would people think I’m sick, or you know what people think I’m hysterical? But actually it’s been fine. And after a while, I started feeling actually like a superhero. I felt like if I’m the only one when I’m doing my kind of weekly shopping trip, who’s wearing a mask, I’m the one who’s protecting everybody else and nobody else is caring yet. It’s going to flip real fast, though, because like in the Czech Republic, they went from zero percent usage to 100 percent usage in three days with no laws, just a social media campaign, you know, songs, videos, the whole thing. And so once that kind of tipped over, now, you know, even before the laws were in place, if you went out in public, you would be the only one without a mask. And people would look at you and think like you’re disgusting, you know, and you obviously don’t care about me and the people around you. You think it’s more important for us to see your beautiful face than for you to protect us and our families. That’s just not acceptable. So go to We’ve got the recipe books there showing how to do it. One of them even shows a mask that a data scientists can make. I can promise you that because it’s me making it. And I am not crafty. I cut it out of a T-shirt, but it’s actually based on the latest research. Cambridge University research shows that two layers of cotton is a really great approach. So a t-shirt works well. And Chinese researchers found under an electron microscope that paper towel is a brilliant material. So I actually have a piece of paper towel in the middle. At the end of using it, so when I’m coming back from the shops, don’t touch the front of it. Untie it or unclip it at the back, drop it in some soapy water for a wash. Take out the paper towel insert. Throw it away. And then, of course, wash your hands. If you want to check out how to make your own mask, which is what we recommend, don’t buy hospital grade masks that frontline medical workers need. Go to  


[41:34] Andy Slavitt: Great. So masks it is. It’s gonna feel weird for a time. It’s gonna feel weird at first, but it’s one of those adjustments that I think will be fine to make. I want to thank you so much for listening to In the Bubble, and listening to my son Zach and me as we talk from our bubble and communicate to all of you through this.


[41:55] Andy Slavitt: Please, if you haven’t subscribed to the podcast, give us a rating of either five stars or something higher. And I want to thank all the good people at Lemonada, who have helped us put this on in such an incredible timeframe. I will see you on Twitter and maybe we’ll even pop a quick conversation podcast up later in the week. But thank you for listening.


[42:17] Andy Slavitt: In the Bubble is a production of Lemonada Media. Niccole Galteland is our producer and Ivan Kuraev is our editor. Music is by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill. Zach Slavtii is our co-producer and my co-host. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me on social media at @ASlavitt on Twitter, @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you liked what you heard today, tell your family and friends, but tell them at a distance. For now, stay safe. Share some joy. We’ll get through this together. And #StayHome.


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