During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were still far more questions than answers, New Jersey and New York leaders were faced with some difficult decisions: namely, what to do about elderly people who lived in assisted living facilities and then were diagnosed with COVID-19. The question was how to return them safely to their living environments when those environments were filled to the brim with other elderly people in close quarters.

The answer, unfortunately, was to return those sick individuals back to the facilities to potentially spread COVID-19 to the others who lived there. And that’s exactly what happened, resulting in New York and New Jersey being the two states with the highest number of nursing home deaths nationwide.

Most people have heard about the drama in New York State, and the questions surrounding Gov. Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home situation. But why is Gov. Murphy not under fire? According to an article on NJ.com, it could be because Murphy came up with a marginally safer solution: Assigning separate staff to the COVID-19 positive residents as well as separating those residents from others.

But the same article also says that on a conference call recording obtained by NJ Advanced Media, an unidentified administrator warned Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli that “people will die.” And that “by demanding we take COVID patients, that patients will die in nursing homes that wouldn’t have otherwise died had we screened them out.”

So why has Murphy avoided criticism? I think it’s because of optics. First of all, Phil Murphy seems to be a more sympathetic person than Andrew Cuomo. He’s a loving husband, a good family man with four kids, and despite his annoying weekly pressers and his constant emergency order power grabs, he just seems less—well, cocky— than Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Also, Cuomo’s hubris even prompted him to write a book about his “exemplary” handling of the COVID-19 situation smack in the middle of the nightmare. That’s almost challenging people to come up with a reason to discredit you.

So while I don’t believe that Phil Murphy‘s handling of the nursing home crisis was that much better than Andrew Cuomo‘s, the former’s whole persona is more likable to New Jerseyans than the latter’s is to New Yorkers. Cuomo‘s press conferences always seemed like a lecture or a sermon from his pulpit. Murphy’s, on the other hand, at least sounded as though they were based on data and science, and not just his opinion, whether that’s true or not.

The longer the crisis went on, the more Cuomo seemed to think of himself, bulldozing any other opinion that dared to clash with his. It’s 2021 and it’s all about emotions, kids, not facts or true understanding of the situation. It’s about the “vibe.” People will purchase things, vote for people, engage in new habits— all based on a vibe. And let’s face it: Andrew Cuomo just gave off a very superior, holier than thou, very nasty vibe. That never goes over well.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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