April 27, 2020
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a six-point plan on Monday for reopening the large portions of the state's economy that have been shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a specific date for the rollout of the plan was not given, the timeframe for the start of the blueprint titled "The Road Back" should be measured in weeks, Murphy said, and how quickly it progresses depends on New Jersey residents continuing to practice social distancing.
"If we follow this road we give ourselves the best possible chance to succeed in the months ahead," Murphy said.
These are the six steps included in Murphy's plan:
1. Sustained reduction in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations: The state will need to see a consistent decrease in the curves of both new people testing positive for the coronavirus and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 over a 14-day period, Murphy said. Murphy also said that hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health care providers will need to stop functioning under a crisis standards of care.
2. Expanded testing capacity: New Jersey officials want to at least double the state's diagnostic testing capacity by the end of May through more kits and increased lab capacity to quickly turn around test results. Murphy also said that there needs to be a flexible plan that allows any resident to be tested at either home, a walk-up and drive-thru site, or a pharmacy, but that essential workers, health care personnel and people in vulnerable populations will remain a priority. The state will both seek to connect any individual who tests positive for the virus with a healthcare provider and engage in targeted surveillance testing in communities to better understand the spread of the virus and prevent against future outbreaks. The federal government, private laboratories and New Jersey's colleges and universities all will be part of this step, Murphy says.
3. Implementation of robust contact tracing: This step depends on coordination among state and local officials to deploy contact tracers and share data of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 so that those who are infected do not contribute to further spread of the virus and that those who he or she might have come into contact with can be identified. Based upon federal guidance, Murphy said between 15 and 81 contact tracers will be needed for every 100,000 residents. In New Jersey, that is a total of 1,300 to 7,000 contact tracers.
4. Securement of safe places of isolation: People diagnosed with COVID-19 need safe locations where they can isolate themselves from others for no cost, and there needs to be wrap-around services in place to support these patients while they are in isolation, Murphy said.
5. Responsible economic restart: New Jersey will create the Governor's Restart and Recovery Commission that will make methodical and responsible decisions on economic strategies that work for every community, with the goal of reducing the risk of additional infections as businesses being to reopen across the state. The more essential and safe that a business is, the sooner it will be encouraged to reopen by the commission, Murphy said. Murphy will announce the members of the commission, who will also be tasked with securing as much federal aid as possible for the state's economic recovery, on Tuesday. The governor also encouraged people who can work remotely to continue to do so, and that face coverings will likely have to be worn in businesses that open up.
6. Ensuring resiliency: State officials will make sure hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare systems have enough personal protection equipment, ventilators, supplies, and staff in preparation for another wave of COVID-19 or other viral outbreak in New Jersey. The state will also build up its own stockpile of equipment such as masks, gloves, and ventilators for healthcare facilities, first responders, and other essential workers in the event that another pandemic occurs. Lastly, a "playbook" will be created for handling future pandemics, Murphy said.
The first four steps focus on public health measures, which New Jersey officials believe must be accomplished before the two economic steps are taken.
"This is a plan for how we move forward, not if we move forward," Murphy said.
Additionally, New Jersey's stay-at-home order that was instituted on March 21 will remain in place until further notice, Murphy added.
Murphy acknowledged people are surely experiencing social distancing fatigue, especially as the weather begins to get warmer and nicer. He noted that these social distancing measures have flattened the curve so far, but that more needs to be done if people are hopeful for some sense of normalcy this summer and the resumption of the seasonal tradition of heading to the Jersey Shore.
New Jersey residents – and those outside the state who own shore houses – still need to stay in their primary residences, Murphy said. Additionally, Murphy said that people should not get their hopes up for a normal Memorial Day when many typically flock to the shore for the long holiday weekend.
New Jersey continues to work with Pennsylvania, New York and other states in the region as part of the multi-state council, which have announced their own plans and timetables to restart their economies.
"Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that we will, or even can, take every step at the exact same time, or in the exact same way, as our neighbors," Murphy said. "But, we will share information and make decisions based on the guidance of our public health and security experts, and with an eye on our north star, which is to protect lives across our seven states and across our nation. And, I think I speak for all seven governors when I say we only want to have to do this once."
New Jersey reported an additional 2,146 confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the state's total up to 111,188 positive cases as of Monday. There have been 6,044 deaths due to COVID-19 across the state.
While the vast majority of cases and deaths have appeared in North Jersey, South Jersey has had 8,749 coronavirus cases and 316 deaths due to COVID-19.
As early as last Monday, Murphy began teasing that such a plan outlining the benchmarks for which New Jersey must reach in order for the state to consider reopening businesses would be coming soon. Murphy took to Twitter on Sunday night to announce that his roadmap for reopening the state would be unveiled during his daily press briefing on Monday.