At today’s COVID-19 press briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a visual roadmap for the path to reopen New Jersey and to get towards a “new normal.”
Using a chart to visually depict a broad breakdown of New Jersey’s total workforce, Murphy said that roughly 25% of the state’s workforce has been able to work from home throughout the pandemic, and added that it would continue to do so “for the foreseeable future.”
Roughly 35% of the state’s workforce has low to moderate contact with co-workers and customers, and in order to reopen would need to adopt safeguard practices, such as wearing masks, disinfecting surfaces, and frequent hand washing while at work. This includes construction workers, landscapers and factory workers, for example.
Finally, roughly 40% of the state’s workforce has frequent contact with co-workers and customers, such as bartenders and most restaurant workers, for example. These businesses would need to also adopt safeguarding practices, but also restrict capacity and reduce density, as well as re-train displaced workforces.
Murphy presented the graphic below, which depicts a multi-stage recovery plan for New Jersey businesses. He said that today, we are “comfortably in the midst of stage one.”
“Not all of these things happen on the same day during each stage,” Murphy explained. “These are groupings of steps that we take in a window of time. We will responsibly and deliberately give different sectors a green light in steps.”
In reaction to the governor’s announcement, New Jersey Business & Industry (NJBIA) President & CEO Michele Siekerka said in a statement, “Today’s announcement sets out three phases of reopening, noting we are in phase one now, but further details and specific guidance, similar to other states such as New York, are needed ASAP. Time is of the essence as too many of our businesses report that they are already out of money or nearing the end of any rainy day or surplus funds that they had on hand. Nine weeks without income is something many never imagined. Many industries have already presented best-practice considerations that put the health and welfare of their workforce, clients, customers and vendors first. These considerations must make their way into specific guidance documents that the state issues as protocols to move ahead now.”
In terms of a timeline for entering stage two, Murphy said that the state would need to “be successful in driving down the curves in the coming weeks.” This includes key health metrics such as the number of new hospitalizations and the number of new confirmed cases, continued increases in testing and contact tracing capacity, and widespread workplace safeguards.
The governor further added that there are still things that will remain constant throughout the entire restart and recovery process.
“We will all have to continue practicing social distancing and staying home wherever possible, and we will be encouraged to continue wearing face coverings in public. We have to recognize that mass public gatherings, large and small will not be happening any time soon,” Murphy said, adding that personal hygiene practices and sanitation of workplaces and mass transit will also be vital throughout the recovery, and potentially beyond.
“If we see a backslide, we will not hesitate to take action,” Murphy said.
Murphy also announced that he is signing an executive order today that will allow additional outdoor businesses to resume operations, including batting cages, driving ranges, shooting and archery ranges, horseback riding, private tennis clubs and community gardens.
Under the order, he also said that golfers will now be allowed to tee off in foursomes as opposed to just pairs, as was previously allowed. The order will take effect this Friday, May 22 at 6:00 a.m.
Over the weekend, Murphy also signed an additional executive order that allows charter fishing services and for-hire vessel activities, as well as watercraft rental businesses, to open with required social distancing measures. These businesses were allowed to open Sunday, May 17 at 6:00 a.m.
“The data we have been seeing over the past few weeks has signaled that it is becoming safer for us to dip our toes back in the water,” Murphy said, adding that the number of new hospitalizations for COVID-19 has dropped 23% since May 3, as one example of positive data.
Overall, the state has 148,039 total cases, after 1,735 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours. Additionally, the state has now suffered 10,435 total deaths at the hands of the coronavirus.
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