New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says authorities are investigating a Republican club in New York over a political gala fundraiser that appears to be in violation of the state’s coronavirus policies.
Photos and videos posted on Twitter showcased dozens of unmasked parties at the New York Young Republic Club event on Thursday night in Jersey City.
Governor Murphy told a Democratic press conference on Friday, “It goes beyond the faint that anyone would be willing to endanger people in another state, not mind their own,” adding that “Jersey City law enforcement is currently investigating the matter.”
Participants included Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and conservative political activist James O’Keefe.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said in an email statement that the incident at Liberty State Park’s Maritime Parc restaurant was a “serious violation” of state crown virus guidelines and ordered a temporary closure of the restaurant.
“We take the implementation of Covid very seriously in Jersey City, and this incident appears to be a serious violation of the governor’s implementing provisions, including capacity restrictions and the wearing of mandatory masks,” Fulop wrote. “This incident obviously ignores defenses to protect the community from further infections and has put Jersey City and countless others at serious risk.”
New Jersey has recently tightened restrictions on indoor gatherings in response to the jump in Covid-19 cases. Indoor meals are limited to 25% of the restaurant’s capacity and indoor meals are not permitted between 22:00 and 05:00. Shoppers of indoor bars and restaurants should wear face shields unless they are eating or drinking at their table.
Out-of-state travelers are quarantined for 14 days, but Murphy said the state relies on a system of honor for compliance.
Last night a @NYYRC he allegedly sneaked into Jersey City to hold a “gala fundraiser” – ignoring our rules of social isolation and disguise.
It is beyond anyone willing to endanger people in another state.
Jersey City law enforcement is investigating this case. pic.twitter.com/OX2ug8S1e3
– Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) December 4, 2020
Gavin Wax, president of the Young Republican Club in New York, scoffed at online criticism, saying the group had done nothing wrong.
“We embrace life and life while we are all worried in the shell about a disease with a survival rate of over 99%,” he said in a tweet referring to an epidemic that killed more than 24,000 people in New York alone and many more in more than 17,000 in New Jersey.
Murphy criticized the club for hosting the New Jersey gala, saying they “snuck in” to Jersey City because they couldn’t find a place that took them to New York City.
“There is no obvious attempt to enforce social distance or face masks, despite the fact that it is mandatory to wear masks indoors at organized gatherings when they are not eating or drinking,” Murphy said, presenting a photo of the gala where people crowded around Gaetz could see a photo.
Gaetz was referred to as the “tall, handsome, gray-suit fella”. He called the gathering “beyond the dim”, especially with “a member of Congress attending this”.
“We don’t like seeing you in New Jersey,” Murphy said, “and frankly, I never want you back in that state.”
Gaetz replied on Twitter, “Thank you for being called handsome, Governor! Yet I only consider him handsome in New Jersey. I’m barely 6 in Florida. “
No one in the restaurant answered the phone, and Gaetz didn’t answer text messages on Friday.
Both New York and New Jersey have struggled with rising rates of the virus. In New Jersey, nearly 15,000 new cases were reported in the first three days of December alone. The state of New York reported 30,000.
In a regular corona virus briefing on Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was “so irresponsible for an elected official who makes laws that encourage people to break the law,” with an obvious reference to Gaetz.
“I want to see young Republicans grow into old Republicans,” he added. “It’s about preventing deaths.”