Legislators from NW N.J., region with few COVID-19 cases, again make case to ease restrictions in their area

State Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths — all Republicans based in Sparta in northwest New Jersey — reiterated their call for a regional reopening to the state’s economy last week.

They said there should be a lifting of restrictions on business in areas with lower COVID-19 transmission numbers.

“We can reopen safely and smartly,” Oroho said. “Respecting appropriate safety protocols should mean you don’t have to sacrifice economic health at the expense of physical health. We should never have been treating them as if they are mutually exclusive.”

Oroho said the price to pay could be great.

“When restaurants, gyms, stores and service companies tell us they may not be able to survive much longer, these are not idle threats,” he said. “Every day, more employers are pulling the plug on their lifelong dreams, laying off workers and closing their doors forever. It shouldn’t be this way.”

The three, in a release after an Assembly committee meeting on the matter, have long advocated for a regional approach.

Space questions why his area — which has few COVID cases — is being restricted.

“In our local area, the coronavirus is posing less of a threat at present than commercial and personal bankruptcies, job loss, foreclosures and psychological pressures,” he said. “We can’t allow our fear of COVID to destroy us financially.

“When people can’t go to work and they are relying on the government and handouts to survive, it takes a devastating toll on them. A responsible regional reopening will allow a level of normalcy to return in localities where virus cases have remained low.”

Wirths, who served as commissioner of labor and workforce development from 2010 to 2016, said geography should determine openings — because geography is hurting his constituents.

“We have seen some hotspots in the state, but most areas, like here in northwest New Jersey, the spread is minimal,” he said. “Suffocating restrictions remain in effect, however, hurting our economy.”

And helping economies across the state border, he said.

“Because of the governor’s policy, New Jersey residents are spending their dining money in Warwick, New York, or Milford, Pennsylvania, instead of our in-state restaurants,” he said. “Estimates show that one out of four restaurants are likely to go out of business, and the longer this goes on, the worse that number will be.

“If we don’t act now and allow businesses to open and operate safely, the fiscal impact on our state and residents will be even more devastating than, frankly, it already is.”