Beginning on June 15, nonessential retail stores in New Jersey will be permitted to have customers in their stores and restaurants will be able to offer outdoor dining, Gov. Phil Murphy said at today’s COVID-19 press conference. He added that on June 22, hair salons and barber shops will be able to offer services, but that the date for reopening gyms and health clubs is yet to be determined.
Murphy said state guidance on related safety protocols for retail stores, restaurants, and hair salons/barber shops would be released later this week so that businesses have time to prepare for the reopening.
These announcements operate in tandem with improved statewide public health statistics such as ongoing decreases in COVID-19 hospitalizations, and declines in both intensive care unit hospitalizations and ventilator use.
New Jersey is also now No. 1 in the nation for the number of COVID-19 tests per capita and has the ability to conduct at least 20,000 tests per day, Murphy said. In addition to this “robust testing,” the state is building its contact tracing, and also working to build safe and accessible locations for people to quarantine, Murphy said.
Murphy added that assuming COVID-19 metrics do not worsen in the future, these public health metrics “tell us that we are ready to enter Stage 2 of our restart, and ready to begin restoring our economic health. The data has determined that we can get doing so, starting on June 15.”
Bars and restaurants have been closed statewide since March 16 and nonessential retail stores have been shut since March 21, helping contribute to nearly 1.2 million unemployed New Jerseyans since March 15, within the context of a total Garden State nonfarm workforce of only 4.2 million people.
Thousands of New Jersey businesses have either exhausted their cash reserves during the shutdown – or are nearing that point – the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) has said.
Michele Siekerka, NJBIA president and CEO, said, “Today’s announcement by Governor Murphy in setting more specific dates for the reopening of additional businesses, with guidance to follow, is providing more of the certainty and predictability that NJBIA has called for as part of New Jersey’s economic recovery plan.”
She added, “Once the guidance is received, businesses can make needed changes to their facilities and business models as they move toward their target reopening date. So many of our New Jersey Main Street businesses, who are in dire economic straits, are desperate to reopen and are prepared to do so in a safe manner. Further, getting our workforce back to work is critical given the unprecedented demands on our unemployment insurance fund.
“While we recognize that the pace of the reopenings cannot come quick enough for many businesses, today’s movement forward is a needed step toward a safe and sustainable reopening that emphasizes the health, safety and welfare of our workforce, customers and vendors.”
Separately, Murphy spoke for about 10 minutes about nationwide and state protests, saying, in part, “I want to start, if I may, by lifting up the many peaceful and moving protests which took place across our nation and especially our state, this weekend, drawing attention to the systemic racism that exists throughout our society. I support these protests, and I thank the thousands of residents who respectfully took part.”
New Jerseyans peacefully protested this past weekend against police brutality overall, and the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, specifically. And while there were some reports of vandalism and/or looting in Atlantic City and Trenton following otherwise peaceful protests in those cities, orderly protests were the norm across most of the Garden State.
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