Former Gov. Chris Christie says government leaders and the American people are going to have to suck it up and face the reality that large numbers of people are going to die during the pandemic.

Christie, a Republican who left office after two terms, said Monday on the CNN podcast The Daily DC that governors are going to have to start opening their economies – even if that means risking lives.

"Of course we want to save every life we can but the question is toward what end ultimately? … There are going to be deaths no matter what," he told interviewer Dana Bash. "That’s the fact of this pandemic. We have a virus that’s killing people."

When asked how leaders should deliver that message to the public considering that federal officials expect 3,000 Americans to die every day by June — a toll that Bash compared to having a new 9/11 day after day — Christie said leaders should be honest and then compared reopening state economies to World War II.

"We sacrificed those lives and we sent our young men during World War II to Europe, to the Pacific knowing that many of them would not come home alive. We decided to make those sacrifices because what we were standing up for was the American way of life. In the very same way now we have to stand up for the American way of life," Christie said.

President Donald Trump has been pressing for states to reopen for months. New Jersey last week began the process by reopening parks, which had been closed for a month.

The shutdown orders in New Jersey and in other states have resulted in record levels of unemployment as well as a hit to government coffers.

Christie's Democratic successor on Monday declared that school facilities would remain closed through the end of the school year.

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said "we are not out of the woods" despite the success of social distancing. Hospitalizations have been declining since April 15.

"We have flattened the curve, bless you all. We've done it better than any state in the nation but we are still not in the end zone."

He noted that in the past 24 hours, 385 people with COVID-19 were admitted to New Jersey hospitals.

"Please, God, most of them – I hope all of them – get out of there. But sadly, the data tells us they won't in their entirety," he said.

"With all due respect, this is the fight of our lives," Murphy added. "Nobody is itching more to get the state back on track than yours truly … but we've gotta do it right."

Since early March, 8,244 residents of New Jersey have died with COVID-19. Death statistics from the Department of Health indicate that the death count from the coronavirus may be undercounted considering that April's deaths from any causes were more than twice the usual number.

On Tuesday, Murphy also announced that the Department of Consumer Affairs would be granting temporary emergency licenses to graduates of nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy and respiratory care therapy programs in order to boost the healthcare workforce. Over the past two months, the Murphy administration has loosened a number of restrictions and regulations to allow hospitals to hire more staff and employ more volunteers.

In March, Christie was urging the Trump administration to take more aggressive actions to curb the spread of the virus, calling for a ban on public gatherings and school closings until at least May 11. Last month, Christie called on the feds to take the lead in acquiring and distributing testing supplies.

On Monday, Christie said that reopening does not mean "blowing the whole thing open" and having "full stadiums" for rock concerts and football games, but requiring temperature checks and masks and other cautionary measures. He said more vulnerable populations would have to take even more precautions.

"If we leave this up to the physicians and epidemiologists, we'll be locked in our houses for another year because they don't want us to be doing anything other than staying in our homes until there is a vaccine," Christie said.

"We have to start getting people back to work because I can see here in my own state the devastation and we're the second-worst state in the country but the economic devastation is equally bad."

Murphy said Tuesday that he was looking at allowing non-essential businesses to start reopening but "I cant give you a date."

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.