May 13, 2020
New Jersey has begun loosening some of its coronavirus-related restrictions, allowing non-essential businesses to begin offering curbside pickup services and permitting all construction operations to resume.
The changes take effect at 6 a.m. Monday.
Customers will not be allowed inside retails stores and must place orders over the phone or online, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
At construction sites, safety protocols must be posted and overcrowding must be prevented. Non-essential visitors are prohibited, and work hours and breaks must be staggered. Proper sanitation practices must be followed.
Drive-thru events, including graduation celebrations, movies and religious services, are permitted so long as social distancing guidelines are followed. People must remain in their vehicles. All windows, sunroofs and convertible tops must remain closed if the vehicles are less than six feet apart.
Murphy's announcement comes as the "data shows that we are ready to begin to restart our economy," he said.
New hospitalizations are down 65% since the peak of 869 new admittances on April 10. Total hospitalizations are down 48% since the peak of 8,226 hospitalized patients on April 11. Patients in ICU are down 37% since the peak of 2,015 ICU patients on April 15. Patients on ventilators is down 42% since the peak of 1,659 ventilators in use on April 15. New positive cases are down 68% since the peak of 4,064 additional confirmed cases on April 4. Deaths due to COVID-19 are down 35% since the peak of 278 fatalities on April 21.
"The data we are seeing gives us confidence that we can begin the restart of our economy, to get people back to work, and set the stage for the steps to come," Murphy said.
Murphy said that the state's COVID-19 testing and contact tracing programs, as well as the social distancing that has been done by its residents to flatten the curve, are why New Jersey is beginning to take more steps towards reopening and ending more restrictions over the coming days and weeks.
"We’re moving slowly and deliberately because any misstep risks further outbreaks," Murphy said. "When public health tells us it is safe to remove a restriction, we’ll remove it. Not a moment before, not a moment after."
"There is no light switch we can flip," he continued. "We can only slowly raise the dimmer."
But Murphy warned that New Jersey is "not out of the woods yet," saying that the state has more new cases, patients in hospitals, and new deaths per 100,000 people than its neighbors in the region—such as Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut—and larger states such as California and Texas. He urged residents once again to continue practicing social distancing.
New Jersey reported an additional 1,028 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 141,560. There were 197 fatalities, increasing the death toll to 9,702. South Jersey has confirmed 14,491 coronavirus cases and 738 deaths.
The relaxed restrictions will take effect more than eight weeks after Murphy ordered all non-essential businesses to close. He instituted a stay-at-home order and banned gatherings at the same time.
Restaurants and bars have been permitted to remain open for takeout and delivery services. Among the other businesses that have remained open: Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, automobile dealerships, convenience stores, banks, hardware stores, liquor stores, breweries, gun shops and real estate agencies.
All non-essential construction was halted indefinitely on April 8. Construction projects involving hospitals, schools, affordable housing, transportation and public utilities were permitted to continue. So were individual projects that limited on-site workers.
State Police officials said earlier this week that drive-by "wave parades" honoring New Jersey high school graduates across the state are permitted, as long as social distancing is practiced and gatherings do not commence.
Murphy unveiled a reopening plan late last month that included a "responsible economic restart" among its key components. Earlier this month, he gave golf courses and parks permission to reopen. He has indicated he will soon provide guidance to Jersey Shore towns seeking to reopen beaches and boardwalks.
Murphy's reopening plan also calls for robust COVID-19 testing and contact tracing programs. He provided details for those efforts earlier this week. Over 21,000 people have already signed up for New Jersey's contact tracing program, state officials said Wednesday.