N.J. Lets More Places Open in First of Three Recovery Stages

Bookmark

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey will allow batting cages, golf ranges and some other outdoor recreational areas and businesses to restart as its virus metrics continue to improve. The move is effective May 22, Governor Phil Murphy said.

“We are moving forward, carefully, methodically, responsibly,” Murphy said, likening the state’s return to normalcy to that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. “In many ways, the aftermath of this pandemic will be similar,” he said. Masks and other precautions “will become second nature.”

While new virus cases rose by 1,735 to 148,039, slightly above the 0.8% average of the prior seven days, hospitalizations for Covid-19 are down 71% since the peak, Murphy said.

Among the state’s 21 counties, just one, far-south Cumberland, was doubling cases in less than 30 days. At peak, several counties were doing so every three days. Hospitalizations reached 3,509 statewide in the past 24 hours, with fewer than one-third of them in intensive-care units. Hospitals admitted 334 coronavirus patients and 190 were discharged.

“We’re operating in a much safer zone than we were a few weeks ago,” but hospital admissions must come down, Murphy said.

Before a full reopening, Murphy said, his administration must evaluate testing and contact tracing capacity; workplace, child care, school and transit safeguarding; and individual compliance with health guidelines. New Jersey is in the first of three reopening stages, he said.

About 25% of the workforce is able to work from home and should continue doing so, Murphy said. Safeguarding must be in place -- masks, surface disinfection -- for the 35% who work in “low-to-moderate contact” jobs, such as construction and factory workers. About 40% of workers who have frequent contact with colleagues and customers -- bartenders and restaurant employees, for instance -- would benefit from restricted capacity and other safety steps.

In Bellmawr, Camden County, a gym owner who gained wide media attention for reopening Monday was issued a citation, and patrons were given warnings, according to state police Superintendent Patrick Callahan.

“I’m not concerned it will spiral out of control,” Murphy said of potential copycat businesses. “If you show up at that gym tomorrow, it’s going to be a different reality.”

Murphy in recent days has taken steps toward normalcy. He has allowed fishing charters and watercraft rentals; the resumption of nonessential construction and the start of curbside retail order pickups; and the return of non-emergency surgery on May 26. Beaches and lakes, key to $45 billion in annual tourism spending, will be open in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

New Jersey on Sunday hit a six-week low for patients hospitalized in intensive care and also for those on ventilators. But Murphy has said new daily hospital admissions show that the state can’t end social distancing, and he has warned that leisure and business activities may be restricted again if people flout his rules on congregating.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.