Gov. Phil Murphy released “The Road Back” — a six-point plan to reopen the New Jersey economy — on Monday during his daily COVID-19 briefing.
Murphy did not give a timeline for when any or all of the principles will be implemented — and said the state continuing its rigorous social distancing measures is the top priority in the coming weeks.
“The Road Back is driven by data, science, health progress and common sense,” he said. “We will use rigorous standards that are equally smart and thoughtful. And, everything we do will be filtered through our New Jersey values. This road map is designed with one goal only — to restore the health, strength and well-being of New Jersey for the long-term.”
Murphy stressed public confidence is as important as public health.
“Let me repeat a basic truth — until we give the public confidence that they should not be fearful, we cannot take further steps,” he said. “A plan that is needlessly rushed is a plan that will needlessly fail.”
Murphy said the state will work with the six other states it has paired with in the Northeast in its multistate council that aims for the states to work together. But, he noted that will not always be possible.
“This isn’t just about New Jersey,” he said. “For us to rush ahead of either Pennsylvania or New York, or any of our other four state partners — or vice versa — would risk returning our entire region back into lockdown mode.
“This doesn’t mean that we will, or even can, take every step at the exact same time, or in the exact same way, as our neighbors. But we will share information and make decisions based on the guidance of our public health and security experts.”
With that, a look at the six basic principles of the plan:
- Demonstrate sustained reductions in new COVID-19 cases/hospitalizations
Murphy said the state will be looking for trend lines that show 14-day decreases, not just one day or one snapshot in time.
“We will need to look across a length of time, and to not be distracted by statistical noise,” he said. “We need to ensure we have a robust and fully functioning health care system ready to meet the challenges ahead. And, it’s not just our hospitals, but also ambulatory facilities, long term care facilities, provider practices — everywhere health care is delivered.”
- Expand testing capacity
Murphy said the state has to significantly ramp up the testing plan in place — saying it needs to double the current capacity. Murphy said he hopes this will be done by the end of May.
“We will have a flexible testing plan that is accessible to all residents who need it — whether it be through walk-up and drive-thru sites, tests at local pharmacies or even at-home testing capabilities,” he said.
- Implement robust contact tracing
Murphy said that, whenever there is a positive case, the state must be able to leverage not just that individual’s recollections, but also employ new technologies to help identify those with whom that individual may have come into contact.
“We will need to recruit and deploy an army of contact tracers whose sole purpose will be to identify these individuals, so we can follow up and ensure they do not contribute to further spread of COVID-19,” he said.
It’s unclear how this will be done, but Murphy said it will be a combination of technology and boots on the ground. He said that, according to national guidance, a proper program will require anywhere from 15 to 81 persons engaged in contact tracing for every 100,000 residents.
- Secure safe places and resources for isolation and quarantine
This may be the most difficult. Murphy said that, to the greatest extent possible, the state will need to provide those who do test positive in the future with a safe and free place to isolate themselves and protect others from COVID-19. He said the state also must be able to provide wrap-around services, as needed.
Murphy said only when these first four steps are completed will the state be able to implement the final two, which are geared to the economy.
- Execute a responsible economic restart
Murphy said he will announce the formation and the members of the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission on Tuesday. (See full story here.)
- Ensure New Jersey’s resiliency
Once the first five steps are achieved, Murphy said the task of bringing more businesses and activities online will continue until the state has a fully functioning and open economy.
“I want nothing more than to see every Main Street filled with shoppers and diners once again,” he said. “I want our construction sites roaring with activity once again. I want to see the Shore humming through the summer. We will move as quickly as we can, but as safely as we must.
“We have to be thoughtful in how we unfold our economy. This virus is now among us, and our task will be to contain it as best we can. But, with our public-health protocols firmly in place, and with our health care system prepared, you should not fear heading back to work or elsewhere.”
Murphy repeatedly said the first step is to secure the public’s health. And, he noted that his stay-at-home order, which has been in effect since March 21, will remain in effect in its entirety until further notice.