Murphy says we’re closer to Stage Two, which is opening of more non-essential businesses

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

Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted Sunday afternoon that the state was “closer” to entering Stage Two of his restart and recovery program — saying he’ll an “important announcement” at 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Stage Two — according to the “Road Back” plan Murphy released May 18 — is a time when more work activities are allowed at physical locations if they adhere to safeguarding and modification guidelines.

“Work activities to be phased-in over the course of Stage Two may include expanded retail, safeguarded restaurants with outdoor seating, limited personal care and possibly indoor dining, museums and libraries, all with significantly reduced capacity,” the governor’s release said.

In addition, it said some personal care services (think hair, nails) may be provided on a limited basis.

Earlier Sunday, Murphy told a South Jersey radio station that he was hoping to reopen casinos by the July Fourth weekend. The restaurant industry, meanwhile, has been pushing for a Friday opening.

The announcement regarding Stage Two, made in a tweet sent around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, follows a weekend when the key health metrics — hospitalizations, the number of people on ventilators and the number of people in intensive/critical care — all had big drops.

But, if the numbers reported this weekend are close to the actual count, New Jersey will have plenty to celebrate.

The number of people hospitalized fell under 2,500 for the first time, reported as 2,469 on Sunday afternoon — a supposed measure of the state at 10 p.m. on Saturday night.

The number is more than 400 below what was reported a week before, when it dropped under 3,000 for the first time (2,993), and more than 1,100 off the total from two weeks ago, when it was 3,564.

The drop in ventilator use was more dramatic, as it came in at 378 — or 121 fewer than the number reported Saturday — down significantly from a week ago (638) and two weeks ago (828).

Finally, the number of patients in critical or intensive care also dropped. It’s now at 522 — far lower than a week ago (819) and two weeks ago (1,061).

The numbers should shake out in the next day or two, but it appears the state is continuing to make dramatic decreases in its three most important hospital metrics.

Other numbers:

  • The state reported Sunday there were 868 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the overall total to 160,455.
  • The state also reported 66 more fatalities Sunday, bringing the overall total to 11,698.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: