June 15, 2020
New Jersey took a significant step forward Monday as the state moved into the second phase of its COVID-9 reopening plan.
But the day did not begin on such a high note for Gov. Phil Murphy, who was heckled along the Asbury Park boardwalk during a live TV interview.
Murphy appeared on NBC's "Today Show" to discuss the state's three-step recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. As he was talking to anchor Savannah Guthrie, an off-camera heckler could be heard yelling at the governor.
Most of the man's comments were unclear, but he could be heard calling Murphy a "dictator," "traitor" and "hypocrite," criticisms aimed at his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The man, who was wearing a baseball cap, eventually could be seen being escorted away by a police officer. Even then, he continued yelling at Murphy.
"This guy deserves to say what he wants to say," Murphy said after Guthrie acknowledged the heckling. "But honestly, overwhelmingly, the majority of folks get it. We make the decisions. They’re not arbitrary. They’re based on facts and data."
Last week, New Jersey sued Asbury Park to stop the shore town from resuming indoor dining ahead of the state’s reopening plan. A state judge sided with the Murphy administration.
The second phase of New Jersey’s reopening plan allows for the resumption of outdoor dining, in-person retail shopping and child care services. It also permits curbside pickup at libraries and drop-off and and pick-up services at New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission locations.
Gyms and health clubs could be permitted to reopen soon, along with indoor dining at a significantly-reduced capacity. But that all depends on improvements to the state's testing and contact tracing capacities. Murphy also has warned that restrictions could be reimplemented if COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations spike.
Restrictions on low-risk activities have been relaxed, and health and safety guidelines put in place. Parks and beaches have reopened. Some construction has resumed. And businesses can offer curbside pickup.
Outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people are permitted. Only First Amendment-protected outdoor activities, such as political protests and outdoor religious services, can exceed that amount. But the limit is expected to increase to 500 people by the Fourth of July.
All outdoor recreational and entertainment businesses that had been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak can reopen—except for amusement parks, water parks and arcades. Indoor religious services can take place with capacity limits.
During the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, only essential businesses were permitted to operate.
Stage 3 will allow most activities and businesses to function with significant safety measures still in place. Some entertainment options will resume, and bars will be permitted to reopen at significantly-reduced capacities.