All New Jersey residents should stay at home until further notice, Gov. Phil Murphy announced during his daily briefing Saturday.
The requirement, made under Executive Order No. 107, also calls for non-essential retail stores to close indefinitely, starting at 9 p.m. Saturday. Only businesses critical to response may stay open. (See the list below.)
In addition, all gatherings are canceled until further notice.
“We must flatten the curve and make sure our residents are practicing social distancing,” Murphy said.
The order should not be confused with a mandatory shelter in place. It is not that. In fact, the order provides for certain exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work or engaging in outdoor activities.
Murphy also said residents can still go for a walk and go outside — and he encouraged exercise. But he said he is ordering everyone to continue practicing social distancing.
He said the order is an effort to strengthen the existing social distancing measures in place, and prohibits all gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations or other social events, unless otherwise authorized by the executive order. When in public, individuals must practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet apart whenever possible, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members or romantic partners.
“From Day One, we’ve made a commitment to be guided by the facts and take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of New Jersey’s 9 million residents,” Murphy said. “We know the virus spreads through person-to person contact, and the best way to prevent further exposure is to limit our public interactions to only the most essential purposes. This is a time for us all to come together in one mission to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow — and eventually halt — the spread of coronavirus.”
Murphy said all construction and manufacturing companies are exempt from the order.
The order directs the closure of all non-essential retail businesses to the public, with the exceptions of:
- Grocery stores, farmer’s markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store;
- Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries;
- Medical supply stores;
- Gas stations;
- Convenience stores;
- Ancillary stores within health care facilities;
- Hardware and home improvement stores;
- Banks and other financial institutions;
- Laundromats and dry-cleaning services;
- Stores that principally sell supplies for children under 5 years old;
- Pet stores;
- Liquor stores;
- Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics;
- Printing and office supply shops;
- Mail and delivery stores.
The release on the order said nothing in the order shall limit:
- The provision of health care or medical services;
- Access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks;
- The operations of the media;
- Law enforcement agencies; or
- The operations of the federal government.
Additionally, the order mandates that all businesses or nonprofits, wherever practicable, must accommodate their workforce for telework or work-from-home arrangements. To the extent a business or nonprofit has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements, the business or nonprofit should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.
Examples of employees who need to be present at their work site in order to perform their job duties include, but are not limited to, law enforcement officers, firefighters, other first responders, cashiers or store clerks, construction workers, utility workers, repair workers, warehouse workers, lab researchers, information technology maintenance workers, janitorial and custodial staff, and certain administrative staff.
The order continues existing bans on recreational and entertainment businesses, requirements that all restaurants operate by delivery and takeout only, and the directive that all pre-K, elementary and secondary schools close and all institutions of higher education cease in-person instruction.
News of the order is sure to get around the state quickly. More than 15,000 were watching the briefing live on the governor’s YouTube channel.
Murphy said the more severe social restrictions are necessary as the state faces the daunting task of containing the coronavirus outbreak. New Jersey is being hit hard by the global pandemic, as it has the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases of any states.
On Saturday, Murphy announced the state has 442 more cases, bringing the state total to 1,327 — the first time it has eclipsed the 1,000 mark. There were five additional fatalities, increasing the total to 16.
Murphy, as he has cautioned for more than a week, said that number is most assuredly low. He also said the number will go much higher as the virus spreads and more tests are completed.
“These numbers, as we’ve said all along, are going to go up,” Murphy said.
The state’s first FEMA-assisted testing center was open for a second straight day at Bergen Community College, where it hoped to collect another 350 specimens. It will be open again on Sunday — and every day after.
The state’s second Federal Emergency Management Agency-assisted testing center, at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, will open Monday. Murphy has said the state is attempting to get a third FEMA-assisted site.
Partnering with FEMA, which has identified New Jersey as a top-priority state, is key, as FEMA supplies test kits (2,500 per week) plus the personal protective equipment needed to be worn by health care officials while they collect the samples.
Additional sites in at least five more counties are attempting to open next week, as well.