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May 18, 2020

New Jersey reopening plan calls for gradual shift to 'new normal'

Restrictions to ease as COVID-19 cases decline and businesses adopt mitigation efforts

Government Coronavirus
New Jersey reopening plan Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has unveiled a reopening plan that calls for gradually easing restrictions businesses and social activities until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a multi-step plan Monday that gradually eases restrictions until New Jersey businesses are operating under a "new normal" following the coronavirus pandemic. 

The plan provides more of a detailed approach to reopening the state economy than the broader outline released earlier late last month. But the plan offers no specific timetable for advancing from phase to phase. 

The entire state has entered "Stage 1," in which restrictions have been relaxed on low-risk activities so long as appropriate safety guidelines are followed. This includes the reopening of parks, the resumption of non-essential construction and the ability for retail businesses to provide curbside pickup.

Beginning Friday, a number of outdoor recreational activities will be permitted. That includes batting cages, driving ranges, shooting and archery ranges, horseback riding, private tennis clubs and community gardens. 

Murphy said New Jersey remains weeks away from Stage 2, which brings back outdoor dining and allows indoor dining at a significantly-reduced capacity. It expands retail activities and permits some personal care businesses to reopen. It also reopens museums and libraries. 

Stage 3 allows most activities and businesses – with signifiant safety measures still in place. It allows critical in-office work, limited entertainment options and reopens bars with limited capacity. It expands dining and personal care options. It also allows shoppers to re-enter retail stores and permits limited social gatherings. 

The "new normal" won't arrive until a vaccine or lifesaving treatment becomes widely available, Murphy said. Until then, following social distancing and sanitation guidelines is critical, he said. 

Restrictions will be loosened based on a continuous decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, testing and contact tracing capacity, and compliance with workplace safeguards. But Murphy warned that restrictions could be reimplemented if public health indicators and compliance go in the wrong direction.

Murphy acknowledged the process will not be quick, but he praised the resiliency residents have shown throughout his stay-at-home order. He said the state had moved beyond Stage 0 – the peak of the coronavirus crisis, when only essential business was permitted. 

“I’m confident that we will be able to pass each test and move through the subsequent stages,” Murphy said. “We are managing today and planning for tomorrow."

The goal of the three-stage protocol is to prevent another COVID-19 outbreak and protect the workforce, Murphy said. As workers return to their workplaces, Murphy said that the state will improve child-care services and ramp up NJ Transit.

New Jersey reported an additional 1,735 coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 148,039. The state recorded another 83 fatalities, increasing the death toll to 10,435. South Jersey has 15,923 cases and 863 deaths.

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