New Jersey enters Stage 2 on its 'Road Back' from coronavirus closures on Monday with a slew of businesses reopening with restrictions in place over the next few weeks.
After being hard hit in the first several weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, New Jersey has seen hospitalizations and cases slow, leading Murphy to set up Stage 2 of his “Road Back” plan, which begins Monday. Outdoor dining and nonessential in-person retail resume Monday with restrictions aimed at preventing the coronavirus in place.
Capacity will be limited and all customers must wear face coverings in retailers. Some mall stores with outdoor access to parking lots will reopen throughout the week.
Restaurants must limit the number of people at spaced-out tables, buffets will be closed and customers are asked not to mill around waiting for a table.
Child care centers reopened in New Jersey Monday with restrictions in place. Policies could be different for parents dropping off their children.
Libraries could also start offering curbside pickup on Monday.
New Jersey personal care businesses will reopen next week with safety measures in place aimed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The new COVID-19 guidelines released Friday by Gov. Phi Murphy cover beauty salons, barbershops, day spas, hair braiding shops, massage parlors, nail salons, tanning salons, tattoo parlors and more.
The first-term Democrat said that hygiene, temperature checks, appointment-only visits, face masks for everyone (unless a client is getting a service the requires it to be removed), spacing people out at least 6 feet and other measures will need to be in place for the personal care businesses to reopen. He said the guidelines laid out from his order will be comprehensive, but shouldn't be a big surprise for people.
On Friday, Murphy also said that libraries can begin curbside pickup on Monday. The buildings, however, will remain closed.
He also said that the Department of Education is releasing guidance on how summer schools can be held starting July 6. It will be up to school districts to decide on how to best serve students.
The Department of Health will also release organized sports guidance this weekend.
Murphy said Friday that his administration is working with casinos, workers and others at laying out a reopening plan for Atlantic City's gaming halls. But, he gave no date on when casinos would reopen.
As of Friday, just six people were being treated in the state's field hospitals and less than 1,500 COVID-19 patients were in all hospitals. In April, more than 7,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Murphy noted that despite fewer hospitalizations allowing for the next stage of reopening, the deadly toll of coronavirus is still being felt.
"We still must be vigilant, and we still must keep social distancing our top priority," he said.
As of Sunday, nearly 167,000 people in New Jersey had tested positive for COVID-19. At least 12,625 people had died from coronavirus-related complications.
More than 1 million coronavirus tests have been administered in New Jersey in just over 100 days.
Asbury Park Backs Off Dining Plan
A New Jersey shore town backed off Friday on its plans to offer indoor dining beginning Monday, in defiance of a state order.
Asbury Park’s council had authorized restaurants this week to offer indoor dining with restrictions beginning Monday, violating Murphy’s executive order. After the state sued on Friday and a judge issued an order temporarily blocking the town's attempt, Mayor John Moor and the council released a statement Friday evening recommending that restaurants not serve diners indoors.
“We are advising Asbury Park businesses not to open indoors as we had announced earlier this week, as opening indoors would violate the court order and could jeopardize your business's liquor licenses” and subject businesses to fines and other penalties, the statement said.
As part of the second phase of the state's efforts to reopen its economy, Murphy has authorized outdoor dining and nonessential retail to resume on Monday but hasn't authorized indoor dining. Murphy said Friday he would crack down on businesses that weren't in compliance.
“We have one set of rules and they are based on one principle, and that is ensuring public health," he said. "The attorney general will be bringing a lawsuit as we speak against Asbury Park to enforce our order.”
Asbury Park’s resolution would have permitted restaurants to host diners inside at 25% of the building’s capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
Murphy has not indicated when restaurants will be able to reopen for indoor seating, aside from saying he hoped it would be “sooner rather than later.”
Business owners and town leaders have chafed at being forced to remain closed as the pandemic gradually subsides in New Jersey. Last month, health officials closed a southern New Jersey gym that had received several summonses after a highly publicized reopening in defiance of a state order.
Should Your State Reopen?
For states considering lifting quarantine measures, the official guidelines propose either a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within two weeks or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests.
As shown below, when you compare yesterday’s new case count with that of two weeks ago, the number is often lower, simply because the counts fluctuate. Critics call the measures vague and ultimately because they aren’t binding, some states are choosing to reopen whether they meet the criteria or not.