As the nation continues to struggle with impact of COVID-19, some continue to believe the danger posed by the pandemic has been overblown and the risk of becoming seriously ill or dying is so low that the state should drop masking, social distancing and capacity restrictions.

Others think the health emergency declared more than 13 months ago is part of a larger, wide-scale manipulation and control effort by the government and pharmaceutical companies.

Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t one of them.

“I don’t know how anyone could look at over 25,000 deaths in this state in 13 months and not conclude that this was an incredibly serious health crisis," Murphy said Monday.

While state health officials have reported 22,469 confirmed deaths attributed to the virus, thousands of additional fatalities are suspected to be related to COVID.

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Murphy said given the New Jersey reality, and the fact that we’ve been basically indoors for the past five months, lifting current restrictions and COVID protections would be foolhardy.

“In a pandemic, our density, our proximity to New York City — we just don’t have the latitude that other states that don’t have that density and don’t have that weather reality have," he said. “I would love to be a less dense state that has warmer weather more often in the year as it relates to a pandemic.”

Murphy has continually encouraged state residents to do as much as possible outside because the risk of transmission is greatly diminished.

“I want to get out of this as much as anybody and I continue to believe that Memorial Day brings us to a dramatically different place," he said.

COVID relief for NJ municipalities: How much is your town getting?

The American Rescue Plan signed by President Joseph Biden awards $10.2 billion to New Jersey. Here is a a county-by-county and town-by-town breakdown.

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