More openings for Memorial Day weekend? It doesn’t appear likely

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | May 21, 2020 at 3:08 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy said he’d love to allow for youth sports. And open casinos, too. Neither, however, appears to be a consideration for Memorial Day weekend.

A day after noting he may have more announcements, Murphy — speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing — said the next batch would more likely be announced next Tuesday.

“(We) may have something tomorrow; more likely, we’ll have a lot of stuff on Tuesday,” he said. “We may have something tomorrow, but I don’t want to get too far out ahead of myself, though.”

Murphy, responding to a question about youth baseball, said the activity is good on so many levels — mental health, exercise, even family bonding. He’s just not ready to allow it.

“I would love nothing more to say that it’s OK to reengage on team sports,” he said. “I hope that that’s sooner than later, but we’re not there yet. I would just ask folks, ‘Please keep doing what you’re doing; know that it’s something that we want to get to, without question.’”

It’s the same with casinos, which Murphy acknowledges are a big economic engine — both in revenue and employment — for the state.

This one is harder, he said, due to its indoor nature.

“Casinos are a tough nut,” he said. “They have a number of attributes that are concerning.”

Here is more from the briefing:

The numbers

The number of people in intensive care dropped below 900 for the first time since the data was announced. The high (2,080) came April 13.

The hospital numbers, as of 10 p.m. Wednesday night:

  • Hospitalized: 3,208;
  • In intensive or critical care: 896;
  • On ventilators: 700;
  • Admitted: 143;
  • Discharged: 286;
  • In FEMA hospitals: 46.

Murphy said there were 1,304 more COVID-19 cases, increasing the state’s total to 151,472. And there were 98 additional fatalities, increasing the state’s total to 10,843.

Middlesex County became the sixth county to top 15,000 cases. In comparison, only 23 states (including New Jersey) have reached that number in total.

Small biz survey

Murphy said the Restart and Recovery Commission and the complementary advisory councils will be ending an email to every business and nonprofit organization in the state, directing them to a short survey that will better inform the state’s collective efforts as it looks to take the next steps along the road back.

“We know that the impacts of COVID-19 have been varied across industry sectors,” he said. “And, while these sectors are represented in the panels we have brought together, nothing beats the input from those living this reality.”

Murphy said it is a short survey that will be hosted by the state’s COVID19.nj.gov information hub. All feedback will be public, but respondents will remain confidential, he said.

Mask program

EPA Commissioner Catherine McCabe has launched a “Mask Up!” campaign in an effort to encourage more residents to wear face coverings.

Murphy said wearing a mask or face covering is not required — and can be uncomfortable — but it is for people’s benefit.

“If you think you look silly wearing a face covering, just think how silly you’d look in a hospital gown,” he said.

Census

As of Thursday, 61.7% of New Jersey residents have filled out the census. New Jersey continues to rank 21st among all states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Murphy said three New Jersey counties (Hunterdon, Morris and Burlington) had the top response rate in the Northeast, but noted Hudson, Essex, and Atlantic counties were still behind.

Murphy said the state’s history indicates we should be faring better.

“We were the third state to ratify the Constitution and the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights — we shouldn’t be 21st in anything.”

Go to www.2020Census.gov.

More help for VA Homes

Murphy said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie has pledged VA assistance to Veterans Homes will continue through to the end of June and that an additional 40 VA clinical staff will be coming to New Jersey as part of strike force teams that will help at more of the state’s long-term care centers.

The final word

Murphy on those who may be cheating the unemployment system:

Anyone who is breaking the rules is only hurting everyone else who’s playing by them. They’re draining resources that deservedly belong to other residents. And they’re draining the time of Labor Department staff who need to continue chipping away at the backlog of claims.”

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: