Gov. Phil Murphy increased social distance restrictions in New Jersey, a move that he says shows it is not time to relax in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All retailers — and he specifically noted grocery stores — must now limit the number of people in their building to 50% of the allowed number allowed in the store.
In addition, all customers and workers must wear a cloth face covering and workers must wear gloves. Employers must provide gloves and masks for their employees.
Murphy said stores must also provide special shopping hours for high-risk individuals, erect physical barriers between customers and cashers and baggers where practicable and regularly sanitize areas used by their employees, among other requirements.
“This order also aims to mitigate the instances we have seen of overcrowding at essential retail stores, and, most notably, in our supermarkets,” he said.
Murphy said the order also will put greater protections in place for the workers at warehouses and in manufacturing.
“No one should be working where social distancing isn’t being practiced to its fullest extent,” he said.
Murphy said his preference would be stores to allow those who refuse to use a face covering to ask them to leave but the order does not allow for that. Only those with a medical reason — or children under 2 — may be given an exception.
Murphy said all of these restrictions must be followed throughout the state and that no municipality or county may impose additional restrictions of their own on essential retail businesses.
“This is one set of rules for everyone,” he said.
Murphy said the restrictions are not in connection with any issue of food supply.
“To be clear, we are not running out of food or other items,” he said. “Our supply chain is feeling the stress, but it is holding strong. We are taking this step to protect both customers and essential retail workers.
“Ensuring social distancing may require you to change the times in which you go to the store, but that’s a small price to pay to ensure the health of your community.”
Murphy signed other executive orders:
- Primary elections: Moving from June 2 to July 7. Murphy said the extra time will hopefully give the state enough time to have in-person voting. If that is not possible, the state would prepare for a mail-in vote. “Our democracy cannot be a casualty of COVID-19,” Murphy said. “We want to ensure that every voter can vote without endangering their health or safety.”
- Non-essential construction: Such construction will cease effective 8 p.m. Friday. Murphy said exceptions to this shutdown include projects at hospitals and schools, in the transportation and utility sector, the building of affordable housing, other individual housing sites that can adhere to strict limits on the number of workers on-site at any given time, emergency repairs and work needed to safely secure a construction site, and other limited instances.
- Highway weight limit: The state will increase the weight limits on interstate highways and toll roads, from 40 tons to 46 tons, for trucks carrying COVID relief supplies.
Other items at the briefing, which is still ongoing:
Murphy announced there were 3,088 more COVID-19 cases in the state, increasing the state total to 47,437.
In addition, Murphy announced there were 275 more fatalities, bringing that total to 1,504.
Law and order
Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said State Police broke up a funeral in Millstone. It had 40-50 people in attendance.
The state’s online portal is now open for people with experience in a variety of technological areas — and Murphy particularly noted COBOL programmers.
Please head to covid19.nj.gov/tech.
Home for the holidays
Murphy pleaded with all religions to limit gatherings during holidays. Passover begins Wednesday night.
“I cannot say this strongly enough — we cannot gather together,” he said. “There cannot be large community seders or gatherings — either indoors or outdoors. We will have to get creative to come together, virtually, so that we can gather together again, someday soon, in person.”
The 100 ventilators promised by California Gov. Gavin Newsom arrived Tuesday night and are currently being prepped for use.
- Public Service Enterprise Group: Will donate an additional 200,000 gloves.
- Wawa: Loaning a 53-foot refrigerated truck to Bergen County to be used as a temporary morgue.
- Raritan Valley Community College: The college’s advanced manufacturing and engineering programs, along with the arts & design department, and Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School, are producing 3D-printed face shields.
- Disabled American Veterans Chapter No. 2 in Clifton: The veterans there pooled their donations and were able to provide gas gift cards to 100 emergency room health care workers at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson and St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic.
On coming back slowly: “This is not a situation where you go to the basement and flip the main breaker and the whole house gets powered back up — we’re going to have to go room by room, carefully and methodically, to make sure we’re doing it in a way that is smart and keeps us safe.”
On why he picked July 7 for the election, as opposed to July 14: “I didn’t want to upset the French,” he said. (July 14 is Bastille Day.)