Murphy, announcing reopening plan, says N.J. is still ‘weeks away’ from expanded retail, food offerings

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | May 18, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Expanded retail openings, restaurants with outdoor seating, limited opportunities for personal care (such as haircuts) and possibly limited indoor dining, as well as admissions to museums and libraries with significantly reduced capacity.

All of these steps come during Stage 2 of Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to reopen New Jersey, but none is likely to come until mid-June, at the earliest.

“This is a matter of weeks,” Murphy said during his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday.

The governor revealed his plan for reopening the state, called “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health.” As he promised over the weekend, it did not contain specific dates, just ideals connected to stages.

File photo
Gov. Phil Murphy at a COVID-19 briefing.

Outdoor activities, Murphy said, will be far easier to open than those indoor.

The state, Murphy said, currently is in Stage 1, which includes relaxed restrictions on outdoor activities, such as parks and beaches, as well as construction jobs. Some non-essential retail may open, but only with significant modifications, including curbside pickup — a move that started Monday. Non-elective surgeries are now also allowed. And Murphy announced Monday that outdoor recreation such as batting cages and horseback riding would be permitted.

Stage 2 is the level most want to get to. It would allow far more activities and jobs to open. Murphy said the data to allow this is still not there.

“What we are working to get to now is Stage 2, which will be a broader restart of our economy,” he said. “Should the data continue to improve and keep giving us a green light, we will be able to further reduce restrictions on other businesses, including allowing our restaurants to once again welcome diners to outdoor tables — and, potentially, to a limited number of indoor ones, or to more creative business models — and for some personal care businesses to begin to reopen for their clients.

“But, again, when we get to Stage 2, not everything will open at once. We will continue to responsibly and deliberately give different sectors a green light in steps.”

Murphy said he recognizes the need to open child care centers as employees return to work in greater numbers. And he said he recognizes the need for increased opportunities for children.

“We look forward to a time when our kids may be able to have limited summer camp and educational experiences,” he said. “We can plan the reopenings of some of our cultural sites and libraries. And, we will be able to put in motion plans for what it will look like when our students return to their schools — and to our colleges and universities — hopefully, in some new model come the fall.”

Stage 3 would include far fewer restrictions and far more activities, including in-person meetings, limited entertainment and expanded personal care options. The state appears to be a long way from the that.

Murphy said certain precautions will apply to all stages:

  • Work that can be done from home should continue to be done from home;
  • Clinically high-risk individuals who can stay at home should continue to do so;
  • All residents and businesses should follow state and federal safeguarding guidelines, including increased sanitization, mask wearing and limited gatherings.

Murphy said he remains hopeful and thanked the state’s residents for their efforts.

“Through our combined efforts, we have flattened the curve of COVID-19 cases, and we are well-positioned to continue our restart and recovery process,” he said. “Our multistage approach uses science, data and facts to determine which businesses and activities can reopen according to their risk level and challenges they face to safeguard public health.

“We will be guided by our ability to protect against a new COVID-19 outbreak with expanded testing and contact tracing, and clear social distancing safeguards in place. We are currently in Stage 1, and we will aim to move through each stage quickly, but also judiciously, with the public health of our communities and all New Jerseyans in mind.”

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