Murphy: How residents act this weekend will help shape future openings of venues, businesses

Gov. Phil Murphy said the state will closely monitor behavior this weekend as it reopens parks and golf courses. He said observance of social distancing will “matter a lot” in determining when other areas and venues can reopen.

“We’re war-gaming what a series of rings of steps looks like,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that things that are outdoors give us more latitude than things where we’re all packed in, on the inside.”

Murphy, speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing, said he wouldn’t directly connect the weekend’s activities to more openings next week.

“A good weekend and a good compliance is going to matter,” he said. “It’s going to matter in specifics as it related to parks staying open, golf staying open. But, maybe more importantly, if we keep seeing those curves come down, we get those testing materials that are now here, we get the contact tracing, you then start to see a lot of pieces of that road to recovery plan looking more real, and that’s going to give us more latitude.”

Murphy laughed when asked if the state would use drones to monitor residents. He did say, however, a presence would be noticeable of officers from various agencies.

“I want to make sure folks know, we’re watching,” he said. “We’re not trying to be jerks, but we’re going to watch and hopefully like what we see.”

Murphy said he wouldn’t hesitate to close more places if he does not like what he sees.

“If we see what we saw the weekend before we closed the parks last month — what I would consider a lot of ‘knucklehead behavior,’ with people ignoring social distancing — I will not hesitate to reclose the parks,” he said.

“I sincerely do not want to do that. I recognize we all want to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. But we are not out of the woods yet. We all still have to use common sense.”

Park, golf rules

Murphy outlined rules of engagement at parks and on golf courses this weekend:

For parks: The order allows state parks and forests to open to the public for passive recreation, including fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, hiking, walking, running or jogging, biking, birding and horseback riding.

Picnic areas, playgrounds, exercise stations and equipment, chartered watercraft services and rentals, swimming, pavilions, restrooms and other buildings and facilities, such as visitor centers, will be closed.

To limit physical interaction, the state parks and forests must implement reasonable restrictions that include:

  • Limiting parking to 50% of maximum capacity and prohibiting parking in undesignated areas;
  • Prohibiting picnics;
  • Requiring social distancing to be practiced except with immediate family members, caretakers, household members or romantic partners; and
  • Banning organized or contact activities or sports; and gatherings of any kind.

For golf: The order recommends that employees and players wear cloth face coverings while on the golf course. Miniature golf courses and driving ranges must remain closed.

Other rules:

  • Courses must implement electronic or telephone reservation and payment systems;
  • Tee times must be extended to 16 minutes apart;
  • Limiting the use of golf carts to one person unless being shared by immediate family members;
  • Closing golf center buildings, pro shops and other buildings and amenities;
  • Removing bunker rakes and other furniture-like benches, water coolers and ball washers from the course.

School decision

Murphy said he hopes to have a decision on schools on Monday … maybe Tuesday. Murphy previously said he is not going to shorten the school year. The only decision is whether the year will finish with virtual instruction.

The numbers

Murphy announced there were 2,651 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 121,190. The total number of cases in New Jersey is statistical similar to those reported in Russia and Turkey. Only six countries (Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S.) have more.

Murphy announced there were 311 additional fatalities, bringing the state total to 7,538.

To put that in perspective, these are some of the states that have overall totals similar to that number: Minnesota (343), Arizona (320), Wisconsin (316), Alabama (272), Rhode Island (266) and Kentucky (240).

Hospital numbers, as of Thursday at 10 p.m.:

  • In hospitals: 5,972;
  • In critical/intensive care: 1,724;
  • On ventilators 1,286;
  • Admissions: 532;
  • Discharges: 571;
  • In FEMA hospitals: 46.

Marriage licenses

Murphy signed an executive order relaxing the in-person requirements for the solemnization of marriage licenses. Wedding ceremonies will be allowed to be held using video-conferencing technology, with certain safeguards. Municipalities are still permitted to allow in-person ceremonies, subject to social distancing, but will not be required to do so.

“Even in these times, there are joyous occasions, like marriages, that we can still celebrate safely and smartly,” he said.

Working papers for minors

Murphy signed an executive order relaxing the in-person requirements for the solemnization of working papers for minors.  The requirement that a school district-designated individual give in-person sign-off is waived for this emergency.

“Obviously, the fact that our schools remain closed has made getting required sign-offs on these papers challenging for young people who wish to work,” he said.

Final word

“I’m going to mask here as I take us out.”

Murphy, wrapping up the briefing, easily the shortest since he began them. It finished in just over 1 hour, 2 minutes.

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