Gov. Phil Murphy said at today’s COVID-19 press conference that via an executive order, golf courses and state parks would reopen this Saturday, May 2, under guidelines ranging from limiting their parking lot capacity to 50% and having restrooms remain closed, to prohibiting picnics and other organized activities, for example. Counties will have discretion regarding whether or not their “county parks” remain open or closed.
Murphy described approved park use activities such as “passive recreation, including running, hiking, fishing, boating, kayaking and horseback riding.”
He added that with the exception of mental health considerations for the public, the desires communicated by friends and protestors surrounding the parks’ reopening did not matter to him: “With all due respect to all the pressure that has been out there, we couldn’t, frankly, care. We make this call based on data, science and facts. Again, the exception is also on mental health.”
Murphy additionally said, “We have seen a consistent reduction in some key metrics, including [COVID-19] hospitalizations. I am hopeful that we are getting on the road back. With what appears to be a beautiful spring weekend before us, I am pleased to make this [golf courses and state parks] announcement, today.”
While the executive order does not actually mandate that park visitors wear face coverings, Murphy said that might come at a later date, adding, “We will be looking closely this weekend on how people adhere to both social distancing guidelines, as well as whether or not you are covering your face.”
Murphy also said at today’s press conference that recipients of the first federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to “self-employed workers, independent contractors, and other workers who are usually not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits will be notified today (April 29), and will receive those payments beginning next week.” Additional information is available at covid19.nj.gov by typing “self employed” in the website’s search box.
Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations stand at 6,289 and continue to decrease in northern and central New Jersey, although hospitalizations are rising in South Jersey. Murphy explained, “… the good news is that the scale is a lot smaller in the south, but it is still a curve that is going up and not down, and we need to get the back of that curve cracked and headed in the right direction.”
And while 2,481 new positive COVID-19 test results were announced at today’s press conference for a statewide cumulative total of 116,264, Murphy said, in effect, that social distancing overall is revealing its effectiveness and that, again, encouraging metrics are emerging.
The lagging indicator of COVID-19 fatalities, however, remains high, with 329 new deaths announced today, for a statewide cumulative total of 6,770.
Before calling for a moment of silence, Murphy noted, “Putting that in perspective … the number of 6,770 is more [lives] than New Jersey has lost in World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, both gulf wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, Superstorm Sandy, and 9/11 – combined.”
A second executive order signed today will allow petitions that seek to place municipal or county initiatives or referendums on the ballot to be electronically signed.
Murphy said, “No one – and I mean no one – should be going door-to-door, either campaigning or collecting signatures. We should ensure that initiative and referendum campaigns can proceed, but in a way that is consistent with public health.”
A complete copy of Executive Order 132 can be found here.
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