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June 01, 2020

New Jersey to move into second phase of reopening plan

Outdoor seating at restaurants can resume June 15, Gov. Murphy says

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

Gov. Phil Murphy is taking additional steps to reopen New Jersey amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nonessential retail stores and salons in New Jersey now have a timetable for exiting the coronavirus shutdown.

New Jersey will move into the second stage of the state's reopening plan on June 15, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday. At that point, in-person outdoor dining can resume at restaurants and bars, and retail outlets can permit customers inside. Salons and barber shops can reopen as early as June 22. Gyms and health clubs will also be allowed to reopen soon, but Murphy did not give a specific date.

Tables seating individual groups must remain six feet apart, and other safety and sanitation protocols must be followed in restaurants and bars.

Murphy did not provide any other specifics on health and safety guidelines, but he indicated that measures such as limited capacity, social distancing, markers on the ground keeping people six feet apart, plexiglass implementation, temperature checks, and masks and gloves worn by employees are likely to be necessary for nonessential retail, outdoor dining, and salons to resume business.

The continual improvement in public health indicators and expansion of COVID-19 testing across the state are what is allowing New Jersey to move ahead to the second step of its reopening plan, Murphy said. He also repeated his mantra that improved public health will create improved economic health, and urged residents to "use common sense for the common good."

"We’re ready to begin moving forward," Murphy said. "We’re ready because our metrics keep trending in the right way. We’re ready because we’re exceeding our testing goals. We’re ready because our positivity rate keeps falling. We’re ready because the data says so."

The announcement comes two weeks after Murphy unveiled a three-stage reopening plan designed to gradually transition business and social activities to a “new normal.” 

Murphy previously indicated that indoor dining at a significantly-reduced capacity could return during the second stage and that museums and libraries also could reopen. 

New Jersey remains in the first stage. Restrictions on low-risk activities have been relaxed, with health and safety guidelines put in place. 

Those measures have included the reopening of parks and beaches, the resumption of nonessential construction and the ability for businesses to offer curbside pickup

Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted. Daycare centers, youth day camps and organized non-contact outdoor sports are slated to resume in the coming weeks.

During the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, only essential businesses were permitted to operate.

Stage 3 will allow for most activities and businesses to operate with significant safety measures still in place. It will permit critical in-office work and bars to reopen with limited capacity. Some entertainment options also will resume. 

Murphy said that social distancing and sanitation guidelines will be crucial until a COVID-19 vaccine or proven therapeutic becomes widely available.

Restrictions are set to be loosened as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline and testing and contract tracing expands, Murphy has said. Compliance with workplace safeguards also must continue. 

But Murphy has warned that the process will not be quick, and that restrictions could be reimplemented if public health indicators go in the wrong direction. 

"We will not flick a switch," Murphy said. "This will continue to be a phased-in restart, with public health as our top priority."

New Jersey reported an additional 509 positive coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the state's total number of cases up to 160,918. The state recorded 27 new fatalities due to COVID-19, increasing total number of deaths due to the virus up to 11,721.

South Jersey has had 19,239 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,104 deaths due to COVID-19. 

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