New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Wednesday that he is ready to take more steps to re-open the economy because of the decline in new hospitalization rates, intensive care unit patients, confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, and deaths related to the virus.
Beginning on Monday, May 18 at 6 a.m., non-essential construction will be allowed to start up again. Non-essential retail businesses will also be allowed to re-open, but for curbside pickup only.
Drive-up and drive-through events are now allowed, such as “drive-by and wave hi” events and drive-thru graduations.
Murphy said the state is able to take these steps because of the many residents who have played their part in flattening the curve by staying at home and practicing social distancing. He also said expanded testing and contact tracing allow the state to begin to re-open the economy.
“Today we are taking the next steps down New Jersey’s road back. Each step that eases us down this road is being taken because public health experts, medical experts and the data tell us it is now safe to do so,” Murphy said. “This is how we transition to a safe, smart, and sustainable way of life. We make this decision based on what can be safely opened and operated, and we are sequencing our decisions so we can learn from them and apply these lessons as we move ahead. We want to be quick, but we have to be right.”
Murphy said at construction sites, workers will be required to wear masks, work in staggered shifts, and ensure proper sanitation.
At retail stores, curbside pickup is the only shopping allowed. No customers will be allowed back in stores, and they will need to place orders in advance.
Gatherings of vehicles such as drive-in movies or religious services are not a violation of the order prohibiting mass gatherings as long as participants remain in their cars. If cars are closer than six-feet apart, all windows, sunroofs, and convertible tops must remain closed unless the occupants are in danger.
In other cases, the ban on gatherings still applies, and residents must still stay at home as much as possible. The governor said he hopes to be taking more steps to restart the economy in the coming days.
“There is no light switch we can flip. We can only continue to raise that dimmer,” he said.
Murphy noted during his daily press briefing that per capita, New Jersey is the number one state in the nation for COVID-19 confirmed cases, patients in hospitals, and new deaths.
The state received another 1,028 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 141,560. Long-term care facilities represent 26,763 of the positive cases. Total COVID-19 related deaths at long-term care facilities in the state have now surpassed 5,000 deaths.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Murphy said, noting that more than 260 people were hospitalized across the state on Tuesday because of complications from COVID-19. The state recorded an additional 197 COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 9,702 deaths.