New Jersey to reopen nonessential business for roadside pickup after ‘unprecedented’ $3.5 billion revenue loss

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, citing the severe economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, announced Wednesday that some nonessential businesses could reopen starting next week.

“The data we are seeing gives us confidence that we can begin the restart of our economy – to get people back to work, and set the stage for the steps to come,” the governor tweeted.

The new rules will go into effect 6 a.m. May 18.

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Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., listens to President Donald Trump speak during a meeting about the coronavirus response in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., listens to President Donald Trump speak during a meeting about the coronavirus response in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Nonessential construction will be allowed. Safeguards must be in place to prevent overcrowding, prohibit nonessential visitors, stagger work hours and breaks, and to ensure proper sanitation. Safety protocols must be clearly posted.

Nonessential retailers can reopen for curbside pick-up only. No customers will be allowed inside stores. Drive-thru and drive-in events are allowed under social distancing guidelines.

“Gatherings of vehicles, such as drive-in movies or church services, are not a violation of my order prohibiting mass gatherings, as long as all participants remain in cars. If vehicles are closer than six ft apart, all windows, sunroofs, convertible tops must remain closed,” Murphy tweeted.

His decision came as, “April revenue collections have declined nearly 60 percent as compared to last April – an unprecedented $3.5 billion.”

“These numbers reflect a lot of economic activity from March – including the weeks before we began the systematic shuttering of our greater economy,” Murphy tweeted.

“These numbers are a sobering reminder that the #COVID impact is not limited to the health of our people, but also to the health of our state’s finances,” he said. “This makes direct assistance from the federal government all the more necessary and all the more urgent.”

Compared with the peak of the outbreak in the state six weeks ago, new hospitalizations are down by two-thirds and total hospitalizations are down by nearly half. The numbers of COVID-19 patients in ICU units and on ventilators have declined. The number of positive cases in the state is down by nearly 70 percent. And, deaths have decreased by more than one-third.

“The success we’ve had flattening the curve gives us confidence that we’ll be able to announce the end of more restrictions in the days and weeks ahead,” Murphy said. “There is no light switch we can flip – we can only slowly raise the dimmer.”

The governor said expanded and accessible testing programs, the implementation of a robust contact tracing program and people successfully adopting social distancing as part of their daily routines have helped flatten the curve.

“We are not out of the woods yet. When compared to other states, we see that New Jersey still bears a significant burden from COVID-19,” Murphy tweeted. “So, keeping up with social distancing is essential as we move forward.”

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New Jersey recorded 1,028 new positive COVID-19 cases within the last 24 hours, bringing the total in the state to 141,560 since the onset. At least 197 new fatalities were recorded, bringing the death toll to at least 9,702, Murphy said.

At least 4,446 COVID-19 patients currently are being treated in New Jersey hospitals. The number of patients reported in critical or intensive care fell to 1,226. There were 364 new COVID-19 hospitalizations since Tuesday; 382 COVID-19 patients were discharged Tuesday.

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