UPDATE (Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 2:43 p.m.): New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Sunday reported another 590 novel coronavirus infections and four deaths. The total number of infections in the state is now at 1,914, with 20 deaths.
In his latest escalation in the fight against the deadly coronavirus, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy followed the lead of other states and took the extraordinary step of ordering residents to stay at home amid the rising number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in his state.
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Murphy’s stay-at-home order, which affects nearly all of New Jersey’s 9 million residents, comes as the number of coronavirus infections in the state climbs to at least 1,914, with at least 20 deaths. Under the executive order, all gatherings – including weddings, in-person services and parties – are banned indefinitely.
In addition, the governor urged people with homes on the Jersey Shore to not visit and instead remain in their primary residences so as not to overwhelm already-strained infrastructure.
“Any place people congregate is a place where coronavirus can be spread. This is no time for anyone to be acting selfishly and taking a gathering underground, but this is the time to think about your family, your friends, your neighbors and do the right thing,” Murphy said.
The governor mandated that nonessential retail businesses indefinitely close their physical locations starting 9 p.m. Saturday. But the following types of essential business are allowed to continue physical operations:
Grocery stores and food banks; pharmacies; medical marijuana dispensaries; medical supplies stores, gas stations and auto mechanics and repairs services; convenience stores; banks and other financial institutions; hardware and home improvement stores; laundromats and dry cleaners; printing and office supply shops; pet stores; stores that sell supplies for young children; mail and delivery shops; and restaurants, bars and liquor stores providing takeout services.
Despite the exemptions, Murphy ordered that businesses allowed to continue operations must let employees work from home when possible.
However, people working in construction, manufacturing, trucking and transportation can continue operating, since their work cannot be done remotely, the governor said.
He stressed that all essential safety and social services at the state, county and city level will still be accessible.
Though they can still go outside for recreational activities like walking or running, or to shop at an essential business, Murphy said people should continue to practice social distancing and remain six feet away from one another.
Murphy said it “pains” him to impose the stay-at-home order, but he deemed it necessary for public health.
“As I have said before, we can no longer maintain a sense of business as usual during this emergency,” he said.
Murphy added that his orders supersede regulations passed at the local level. “We cannot have a patchwork of regulations that change from one town or one county to another,” he said.
The governor telegraphed his decision the day prior, saying during a news conference that "aggressive social distancing" was required to stop the rising number of infections. "If I had to put a phrase on it, it's our-way-or-the-highway time," Murphy said.
Murphy has asked for $100 billion in federal aid to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
He acknowledged the financial strain that the stay-at-home order will cause, but said that not taking action, and thereby allowing the virus to run its course, would have a bigger economic impact due to death and sickness.
"At the end of the day," Murphy said, "we will get through this."