Thursday represented a landmark day for New Jersey, as — despite Gov. Phil Murphy’s change of plans on indoor dining — several new elements of the economy were allowed to reopen, including museums and aquariums, boardwalk arcades and outdoor amusement parks and water parks.
At his daily COVID-19 briefing, Murphy talked extensively about the Fourth of July weekend, including a new executive order that would allow flags in the state to return to full staff — after having been at half-staff for 90 days to honor the lives lost to the pandemic.
Likewise, the planned increase in limits on people at outdoor events will take place, as planned, through executive order. The limit will rise to a maximum of 500 people from the prior limit of 250, effective Friday. Indoor gatherings must remain at 25% of capacity or a maximum of 100 people, Murphy noted.
Murphy also continued to defend his indoor dining change-of-heart, describing the limitations on safety indoors as the reason, not what he continued to describe with his favorite word, “knucklehead behavior.”
Finally, Murphy said another executive order would extend the public health emergency for another 30 days.
Murphy also talked about the first five businesses that received funding through the state’s Entrepreneur Support Program, which is offering $5 million in guarantees to investors making loans to startups.
He said the five received approximately $700,000 through the program, citing the example of Eatontown-based Sunray Scientific. The electronics materials company received $184,000 in guarantees and leveraged them into $230,000 in new capital investments, Murphy said.
Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan later took a turn at the microphone, talking about some of the results of economic initiatives related to the pandemic.
Sullivan said that, so far, the state has helped 6,700 companies with grants and loans totaling $26.3 million.
In addition, the state’s Emergency Assistance Grant Program’s phase 2 has approved 3,313 applications for $11.855 million in funding, Sullivan said.
Of those approvals, minority-owned businesses received 22.3% of the funding, women-owned businesses received 26.8% and Opportunity Zone-located businesses received 38%, Sullivan said.
New and ongoing initiatives
Sullivan also said the EDA is planning a program to provide direct support to small businesses through e-commerce technical assistance. He noted that more details would be provided in the coming weeks, as the state begins a pilot program and then scales it up.
The state also extended partnerships with four organizations — the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Rising Tide Capital and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey — tied to federal Small Business Administration programs.
Murphy said the state saw 539 new positive tests, for a total of 172,356, and 27 deaths, for a total of 13,251 confirmed COVID fatalities.
- In hospitals: 1,027;
- In critical/intensive care: 216;
- On ventilators: 170;
- Admissions/discharges: 51/83;
- Rate of transmission: 0.87 (new cases arising from each case);
- Testing positivity rate: 2.95% (as of June 28).
The governor continued to praise statewide efforts to limit the pandemic, calling it “a model for the nation.”
Murphy noted that, as of July 1, hospitalizations are down 12% in the past two weeks (since June 17) and down 94% since the peak. Patients in hospitals, in ICU and on ventilators are all down more than 85% since the peak.
State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan urged care during the holiday weekend, noting that last year, the state saw nine fatal accidents for a total of 13 deaths.
Murphy noted the state has hired 130 more contact tracers, bringing the total to 357. … He also spent some more time urging New Jerseyans to complete the 2020 Census. … Callahan noted no overnight incidents. … On a lighter note, Murphy pointed out with more than a hint of glee that he took chief of staff George Helmy’s desk to replace former President Woodrow Wilson’s.