New Jersey restaurants and bars planning to reopen on June 15 will have to ensure that outdoor table seating is at least six feet apart for individual groups, and they additionally will need to comply with an array of safety and sanitation protocols that will be released later today by the Department of Health, Gov. Phil Murphy said at today’s COVID-19 press conference. The overall executive order Murphy said he will sign is part of the state’s transition to Stage 2 of its reopening.
Murphy added, “We expect that many municipalities … will seek to allow restaurants and bars to expand their service footprints both on their own property and maybe onto shared property such as sidewalks, streets and parks. We recognize that municipal officials closest to the ground are in the best position to make these decisions that are both equitable and practicable and safe within their communities, and we welcome their efforts and partnerships.”
The New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control will issue a related ruling allowing liquor license holders to apply for a limited-duration special permit for expanding areas where they can serve patrons. Murphy said municipal approval will be required for the special permits, and establishments must comply with local ordinances.
Murphy meanwhile announced recommendations from Manatt Health’s review of New Jersey’s long-term care facilities, the latter of which have been under scrutiny following high levels of coronavirus infections among both residents and staff. Of the 11,880 total COVID-19 related deaths thus far in New Jersey, 5,232 have occurred in long-term care facilities, according to updated data released today.
Moreover, in 2017, approximately one-third of the nursing homes surveyed by the state were cited for infection prevention and control deficiency, Murphy said. Separately, Murphy quoted from the report broadly, saying, “COVID-19 didn’t create the problem; it exacerbated the longstanding, underlying systemic issues affecting nursing home care in New Jersey.”
By accessing at least $10 million in coronavirus relief funds, Murphy said the state is “prepared to implement key recommendations in the near-term. …”
Overall, Manatt Health’s report recommendations fall into four categories, with the first aiming to strengthen long-term care center emergency capacity in part via a centralized emergency operations center. Murphy said, “It’s a good idea, and we will do it.”
A second category includes “stabilizing facilities across the state and bolstering [their] workforces by enhancing support not just for our nursing homes, but also for their workers,” Murphy said. This would include improved paid sick leave protections, as well as improved career development and career training. It would additionally create a medical loss ratio “to ensure payments to nursing homes – including any increases – are used for patient care and not for lining owners’ pockets,” Murphy said.
A third category focuses on increased transparency and accountability including data sharing, regulatory procedures and facility ownership monitoring, for example.
The fourth category centers on “building a more resilient and higher quality long-term care system by improving safety and quality infrastructure, and strengthening state agency organization and alignment around long-term care operations.”
Of the long-term care facility scenario overall, Murphy said, “… as deep-seated and longstanding as this situation is, we will directly and aggressively confront this challenge, alongside the many good actors in the long-term care industry. The majority of owners and managers are good people who want to do the right things by the residents, their staffs, and the families who trust them. Together, we will make New Jersey a national leader, and a national model.”
Meanwhile, Murphy also said today: “I just want to reiterate my personal pride in the extraordinary behavior up and down our state, over these past number of very trying days, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd – a man who, by any measure, should be alive and well, today.”
There were 21 peaceful protests held across New Jersey last night (Tuesday), including one in Parsippany that by itself may have had between 3,000 to 4,000 participants.
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