More outdoor recreational areas – including shooting ranges, golf ranges and tennis clubs – are being added to the list of places reopening from coronavirus closures in New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he would sign an executive order that reopens outdoor batting cages, golf ranges, shooting ranges, horseback riding, private tennis clubs and community gardens.
The openings are effective as of Friday at 6 a.m.
Golf courses can also begin allowing foursomes again, Murphy said.
As of Monday, the hard-hit Garden State had more than 148,000 COVID-19 cases and at least 10,435 deaths related to the coronavirus. Despite the big totals, in recent weeks the daily spread of the deadly virus has slowed as the strain on the state’s hospitals has decreased.
The expansion of outdoor activities available in time for Memorial Day weekend came after a weekend where people returned to New Jersey’s beaches ahead of the official reopening of the sand.
In recent days, Murphy has reopened retailers – previously dubbed nonessential – for curbside pickup, announced that all Jersey Shore beaches would be open by Friday, announced the return of elective surgeries and began allowing watercraft rentals and charters again.
Murphy on Monday unveiled what he called a three-stage blueprint to reopening the economy from the COVID-19 shutdown.
The approach goes from more restrictive practices in stage 1 to what the first-term Democrat called the “new normal” after stage 3.
If the state's coronavirus trend lines continue in the right direction, Murphy said, the state would move next to letting retail expand its operations, along with outdoor dining and reduced-capacity indoor dining. Murphy gave no timeline on when stages would advance, but said moving from stage 1 to stage 2 would be a “matter of weeks."
“The hardest nut to crack will be indoors, no ventilation, sedentary realities," he said.
Murphy has credited increased testing and social-distancing measures with allowing him to get New Jersey on "The Road Back" from coronavirus shutdowns. The new three-part blueprint followed that earlier six-part plan.
That plan called for increased testing, more contact tracing, positive trend lines, along with capacity for people to shelter in place, and then restarting. Finally, he said he called for building up resilience to the virus.
Monday's plan differed by providing specific examples of the kinds of activities that would permitted at each of the three stages.
Data and public health will continue to guide the Democrat's decisions about reopening other parts of the Garden State.
"We’re not nearly out of the woods yet – but we’re moving forward, carefully, methodically, and responsibly," Murphy said.
Murphy said safeguards like proper hygiene, testing and protecting workers will remain in place and that restrictions could be brought back if the health data says so. He says people should continue to wear face coverings in public and when they enter a store and practice safe distance from each other.
"Until a proven vaccine is widely available, we cannot firmly enter the 'new normal,' when life will once again return to all our workplaces, downtowns and main streets," Murphy said.
He also touted personal responsibility and compliance as a key in reopening more of the Garden State. Murphy said that there have been far to little wearing of face masks in public places.
Murphy said none of this is going to be quick. He compared changes in routine amid the deadly COVID-19 virus to how things changed after the 9/11 terror attacks.
"After 9/11, new security measures were put into place that we were not accustomed to," Murphy said. "Those practices are now part of our routines. The aftermath of COVID-19 will be similar."
This story is developing and will be updated.