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SPECIAL REPORT: Details on Non-essential Business Closings (updated)

Editor’s Note: On the evening of March 24, Gov. Murphy added more retail business exemptions to the ‘essential’ list; that information can be found here.

As the novel coronavirus continues to rapidly sicken New Jersey residents, Gov. Murphy today (March 21) issued an executive order that shuts down all non-essential retail businesses in the state as of 9 p.m., orders residents to stay at home (again, with limited exceptions, such as to obtain food), and forbids even private gatherings or parties – all historically unprecedented moves aimed at hopefully slowing person-to-person transmission of the virus.

Exceptions to the order include, but are not limited to:

  • Grocery stores, farmer’s markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store;
  • Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries;
  • Medical supply stores;
  • Gas stations;
  • Convenience stores;
  • Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities;
  • Hardware and home improvement stores;
  • Banks and other financial institutions;
  • Laundromats and dry-cleaning services;
  • Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years;
  • Pet stores;
  • Liquor stores;
  • Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics;
  • Printing and office supply shops;
  • Mail and delivery stores.

Gov. Murphy additionally said that bars and restaurants providing take-out services may continue to do so, adding, “And work at construction sites may continue, as can manufacturing, trucking and transportation operations. That is work that largely cannot be done from home.”

Gov. Murphy also said that all businesses must move their employees to work from home, wherever possible.

The State of New Jersey provided a more detailed list and explanations here.

Executive Order No. 107 can be found here. Another executive order essentially surrounds how today’s orders supersede local and county rules. Executive Order No. 108 can be found here.

Social Distancing

Without these and other social distancing measures, including, for example, residents maintaining a six-foot buffer between other people when food shopping (now required by the executive order), epidemiologists and other experts warn of a profound and sudden spike in New Jersey COVID-19 cases which could rapidly overwhelm the state’s entire healthcare system.

Of the sweeping executive order overall, Gov. Murphy said at today’s press conference, “While the economic pain is significant now, we will save many lives. We will keep a lot more people healthy, and, frankly – at the end of the day – the economic pain related to what we are doing will be a lot less consequential than if we had let this virus run amok.”

Gov. Murphy additionally said that he viewed his actions in three categories: social distancing to decrease an exponential spike in COVID-19 cases; expanding healthcare capacity; and expanding COVID-19 testing.

Gov. Murphy also implored residents not to travel to their second homes at the New Jersey shore, since the healthcare infrastructure in that region is not equipped to cope with a high COVID-19 caseload from seasonal residents.

Expanding Hospital Capacity

Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said today that through opening closed hospital wings and using other measures throughout New Jersey, 500 new hospital beds have been made available immediately, approximately 500 additional beds will be made available in the next two weeks, and 400 more beds should be available in four to five weeks.

Leaders also confirmed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is prepared to construct field hospitals in South Jersey to bolster that region’s limited hospital infrastructure.

Ongoing concerns regarding procuring enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers – in addition to ventilators for patients and having enough healthcare workers overall – continue.  Gov. Murphy explained that for the PPE, in particular, the state is working to “uncover every single stone,” including making purchases, accepting donations and hopefully obtaining more equipment from the national stockpile.

All this is against the backdrop of 442 new COVID-19 cases in the state overnight and 5 new deaths, for a statewide total of 1,327 cases and 16 fatalities, thus far. Both Persichilli and Gov. Murphy said today that cases are only expected to increase, in part due to aggressive testing measures.

Expanding Testing

Bergen Community College’s novel coronavirus testing center opened yesterday in collaboration with FEMA. While officials said it is capable of handling some 2,500 specimens on a weekly basis, the site had to stop at 300 specimens today under heavy demand; it is slated to re-open tomorrow.

Another testing center at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel is slated to open Monday morning, Gov. Murphy said today.

He additionally said that a “one stop” center (COVID19.nj.gov) is available today, where residents and businesses alike can obtain answers. Employees and employers can also visit the New Jersey Department of Labor’s website at nj.gov/labor for pertinent information.

Economic Consequences

The global, national and state fallout from COVID-19 is thus far incalculable, and Gov. Murphy said that New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania alone will need at least $100 billion in direct federal aid to cope with the crisis, and that “the meter is running” on these state’s individual capabilities.

Promising to support businesses and help them, he added, “We also recognize the impact this [executive order] will have on our small businesses, who are the backbone of our economy, and the employers of the majority of New Jerseyans. We know that this will only add more hurt, at a time when you are already immeasurably hurting.”

“But, we must take this step to protect our residents.”

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

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