At the beginning of the week, Gov. Phil Murphy said the road back to reopen the Garden State will go through three stages and then we’ll arrive at a new normal, perhaps sometime in July, maybe in August.

What exactly that new normal will look like no one seems sure.

Murphy said Tuesday that this pandemic has changed everything.

“One of the lessons we all learn here is this isn’t the only pandemic concern that humankind should have. This either itself could come back, or something else like it," he said. “9/11 changed some things permanently and I think this is going to change some things permanently.”

Murphy said behavior we have all become used to could be put on hold for quite a while.

“I’ll quote Tony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), who is our new guy we all look up to, and he said — this is from a few weeks ago — I don’t know that we’ll ever be shaking hands again,” Murphy said.

“I’m not saying never again, but packing 75,000 or 80,000 people sandwiched like this beside each other at some sort of an event, I mean that’s going to be hard to get to that," he added. “Not just the rules of the road but the psyche I think of all of us has changed … permanently.”

Murphy said a COVID-19 vaccine will make a big difference “but I think there’s going to be certain habits, the basic stuff, that we’re not going to shake anytime soon — that’s a personal opinion.”

According to Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services at the state Health Department, reasonable people can disagree on what it is worth to get a certain type of return.

He said as a nation we’ve accepted 30,000 to 50,000 people a year are going to die from the flu but “we certainly have not accepted as a nation that 30,000 to 50,000 or even 300 to 500 people a year would die from terrorist attacks, so we’ve accepted different risks and rewards and different steps that we have to take to meet that level.”

He noted what society will accept about COVID-19 going forward and “what freedoms will be given up in order to minimize the risk of death — I can’t answer that. But clearly those are the questions that should be raised and should be talked about.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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