COVID-19

Murphy Threatens to Potentially Reclose Parks

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said at today’s state press conference that there are now 5,972 COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide, a decrease of 28% since an April 14 high of 8,293. And while there were 532 new COVID-19 hospitalizations yesterday alone – and South Jersey is experiencing a smaller-scale hospitalizations increase – Gov. Phil Murphy appeared encouraged by the broader pattern.

He said, “The [COVID-19] numbers are showing positive trends, and these are the trends that we will need to see carried over in the coming weeks if we are to put ourselves on that road back, and begin the restart of our economy.”

With New Jersey’s state parks and various golf courses slated to reopen tomorrow (Saturday), Murphy warned, however, that this weekend will be a “huge test, for all of us.”

He said that if people ignore social distancing guidelines as they did during April’s first weekend, he will reclose the parks: “If we see that again, we will not hesitate – I don’t say this with any joy – to reclose the parks.”

The state announced 2,657 new positive COVID-19 cases today, for a statewide cumulative total of 121,190. There were also 311 new fatalities reported today; New Jersey’s death toll is now 7,538.

Reopening Timeline

Against the backdrop of some states beginning to reopen their economies, Murphy said, “I understand that people and businesses are anxious for a more specific timetable for when we can restart [the economy] and begin to move forward; by the way, so am I.”

He added, “In addition to precious lives, data determines dates. That means when we see our benchmarks on key factors like testing or hospitalizations, we can begin considering a specific timetable. … And I cannot stress enough how big a test this weekend will be in terms of keeping these trend lines moving in the right direction.”

Unemployment Update

Murphy also addressed concerns surrounding unemployment insurance payments to New Jerseyans, stating that “even in normal times,” three weeks may elapse before recipients receive benefits, and, moreover, those who have not yet resolved recent benefit issues are largely from a group of approximately 200,000 self-employed, independent contractors and “gig workers” who applied under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.  These claims are beginning to be processed today, Murphy said.

The state has paid $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits thus far, Murphy said, adding that entitled individuals will receive all of their monies.

Marriage Licenses / Work Permits for Minors

Murphy said today that he will sign an executive order “relaxing the in-person requirements for both the solemnization of marriage licenses for couples, and for working papers, for minors.”

He explained, “… wedding ceremonies will be allowed to be held using videoconferencing technology, with certain safeguards. Municipalities are still permitted to allow in-person ceremonies, but [they are] subject to social distancing. [Municipalities] will not be required to do so (hold ceremonies).”

In the realm of working papers for minors, he said that “the requirement that school and district designated individual person sign-off is waived, for this emergency. Obviously, the fact that our schools remain closed has made getting required sign-offs on these papers challenging, for young people who wish to work.”

Flags

Although New Jersey’s flags are already being flown at half staff in memory of COVID-19 victims, Murphy signed an executive order stipulating that they now additionally are in memory of former First Lady Deborah Kean, who died at the age of 76 on April 24. She is survived by her husband, former Gov. Tom Kean, who was the 48th Governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990. Gov. Kean also chaired the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the causes of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and made recommendations regarding how future attacks might be prevented.

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