Majority of new COVID cases are in 6 counties — so, some question why restaurant rule is in effect for all 21

Critics feel statewide restaurant ruling is blanket edict N.J. should avoid, urge Murphy to use ‘scalpel’ approach he has talked about

Gov. Phil Murphy has talked for weeks about using a scalpel approach to future restrictions. That’s why his order restricting indoor service at all restaurants and bars was surprising to some up and down the state.

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) said the governor’s decision to not allow restaurants, bars, clubs, lounges and casinos to serve food or alcohol indoors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. did not take into consideration that the virus is concentrated in six counties.

Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic and Union counties all have in excess of 20,000 cases, while Morris County, which DeCroce represents, has approximately half that.

Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon counties in the northwest region of the state all have fewer than 2,000 cases.

“A more nuanced approach to dealing with the coronavirus is needed,” DeCroce said. “We need to work with the facts and with the emerging science, rather than issuing blanket orders that severely impact people’s lives and livelihoods.”

In South Jersey, Cumberland, Cape May and Salem counties all have fewer than 2,000 cases, too. That’s why Christina Renna, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, said her group was “disappointed” in the decision.

“The CCSNJ is disappointed that the governor has once again taken a statewide, one-size-fits-all approach, refusing to consider the vast disparities in health metrics throughout different geographical areas of the state,” she said.

“The health and safety of New Jersey residents should always be the first priority, but there is no harm in assessing the data and making smart health and economic decisions that do not treat every area of the state similarly when the health data supports that approach.”

The Casino Association of New Jersey appeared to remain neutral on the new rules.

President Steve Callender said the sector is taking all steps possible to ensure the health and safety of its guests.

“The Casino Association of New Jersey understands the administration’s concerns and that is why the industry has taken extraordinary measures to safely welcome back thousands of hardworking employees and valued guests, while also helping to minimize the exposure of Atlantic City casino property guests, our employees and our local community to the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

“As we see a rise in cases across New Jersey, we are focused on the health and safety of our employees, guests and fellow residents and will continue to work with AtlantiCare, our regional health care provider, as well as local and state officials, to refine and update our protocols as local and state mandates evolve. We remain dedicated to complying with, or exceeding, local or state-imposed mandates, restrictions and occupancy limits to try to maintain a healthy environment.”

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) isn’t concerned about scalpels — he said he just wants to see the data supporting the statewide move.

“Is the governor suggesting diners are more susceptible to the virus later in the night?” he asked.

Murphy, while announcing the decision, did say the state had seen evidence that, as the night wore on, patrons were less vigilant in following masking guidelines.

Pennacchio said he wanted more.

“If the governor has data that supports him, if he has ‘the science’ behind him, he should share it with the public,” he said. “If he doesn’t have the data, he shouldn’t be making decisions based on fear and doubt.

“I would like to hear from the health commissioner. Where does she stand on this? Does she have the science and data to support this arbitrary edict? Can she share that with the public? This shouldn’t be one man’s decision. The commissioner should be involved, and the Legislature should be involved.”

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