Gov. Phil Murphy touted the progress his state has made in slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus during an appearance on NBC's TODAY Show Monday morning then announced some of what's next at a Monday afternoon news conference.
“We are slowly but surely getting back on our feet," Murphy told Savannah Guthrie while they stood at a distance on the Asbury Park boardwalk. "We're opening back up and it feels great."
Outdoor dining, in-person retail and curbside pickup at libraries in New Jersey are among the services that reopened Monday from their COVID-19 pause.
Restaurant hours aren't limited, Murphy noted Monday. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control has issued about 650 liquor licenses for outdoor service the past couple of weeks.
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"Please over tip," Murphy said for people heading back to restaurants for outdoor dining.
Murphy said previously that Monday would mark the start of Stage 2 of reopening the state from the coronavirus outbreak. Child care services were cleared to reopen and drop-off and pick-up services resumed at New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission locations, the administration said.
"We want to get this economic restart going, but our ultimate goal remains to save lives," Murphy said. "That will not change."
New Jersey is among the worst-hit states by the virus, with a death toll of at least 12,676 and more than 167,000 positive cases as of Monday. Fifty-two new deaths were reported Monday, including an unnamed "very young" child with an underlying health condition, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
A person could be heard in the background heckling Murphy during his TODAY interview over the slow pace that parts of the economy are reopening, something the first-term Democrat acknowledged while saying data is driving the roll out of reopenings from COVID-19 closures.
“I think we are comfortable where we are, I just don’t think we can responsibly go faster,” Murphy said.
The fear is that cases, which have slowed for several weeks, will increase as people return to public places. Murphy didn't rule out closing up parts of the economy again should the virus surge.
"My gut tells me this will come back," Murphy said.
He said, however, that he is less worried about outdoor activities and that he hopes contact tracing and testing can be used to push any surges back down.
"Our goal: To not experience the spikes that other states are now seeing because they rushed to open too much too soon," Murphy said Monday afternoon.
Murphy on Monday, urged for businesses that can have employees work form home continue to do so.
He also laid out plans for resuming competitive outdoor sports. Low-risk sports like golf can resume competition on June 22. Medium-risk sports like soccer and high-risk sports like football can resume non-contact drills the same day.
Medium-risk sports can begin competition on July 6. High-risk outdoor sports can resume full practices on July 20.
A plan must be in place for social distancing, athletes and staff must undergo a temperature check and equipment sharing must be limited, Persichilli said. Signage must be posted about social distancing and good hygiene.
There also must be proper disinfecting and cleaning standards in place.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.