NJ Governor's Chief Counsel Tests Positive For COVID-19

By Jeannie O'Sullivan
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Law360 (April 8, 2020, 5:35 PM EDT) --
Matt Platkin
Matt Platkin
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's chief counsel Matt Platkin has tested positive for COVID-19, a Murphy representative confirmed Wednesday, hours after the governor somberly announced that the Garden State's death toll from the virus had reached 1,504.

Platkin "is currently asymptomatic and has been in quarantine since last Saturday while continuing to actively work from home. Our office has rigorously followed all recommended protocols," Murphy spokesperson Mahen Gunaratna said in an email to Law360.

The governor has not been tested, according to Gunaratna.

A former Debevoise & Plimpton LLP attorney, Platkin served as policy director for Murphy's gubernatorial campaign and was tapped for his present role when Murphy won the election in November 2017. His private practice focused on criminal and regulatory investigations, as well as pro bono work in federal and immigration courts.

The Stanford Law School graduate's career in Democratic politics also included a job with then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker's 2013 Senate campaign. Booker was among those who joined Murphy on Wednesday morning at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center in Edison on a tour of a field medical station that will serve as a coronavirus hospital.

Platkin tweeted Wednesday about the combined efforts of public officials to navigate the pandemic.

"One of the few positives lately has been the incredible, constant collaboration with governors & staff on both sides of the aisle as we work tirelessly to solve problems we never imagined — trying to save lives & mitigate harm from the worst public health crisis of our lifetime," Platkin wrote.

New Jersey maintained its spot Wednesday as the nation's second-biggest coronavirus epicenter, with Murphy announcing 3,088 new cases for a total of 47,437. Only New York has logged more cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus.

During his coronavirus press briefing Wednesday, Murphy pleaded with the public to adhere to social-distancing measures. He noted that state officials are starting to see the beginnings of a "flattening curve" — meaning a slowing down of the infection's spread — but cautioned that there was no "plateau" afoot.

If anything, the public will have to tighten precautions and remain "absolutely vigilant," he said.

"I don't say that with any amount of joy," Murphy said.

Murphy has issued a flurry of executive orders in recent weeks as the state's increased testing capacity led to daily announcements of hundreds and then thousands of positive test results, and a climbing death toll. On Wednesday, Murphy postponed the primary election scheduled for June 2 to July 7.

This week Murphy also shuttered state and county parks and extended tax filing deadlines.

--Additional reporting by Bill Wichert. Editing by Orlando Lorenzo.

Update: This article has been updated with information about Platkin's background and New Jersey's COVID-19 situation.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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