By ERIN ROLL
Non-essential retail businesses in New Jersey will be able to start reopening Monday, May 18, but under strict social distancing guidelines, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.
Curbside pickup will be permitted for retailers beginning 6 a.m. Monday, as well as drive-through and drive-up businesses and events, Murphy said. Customers will not be allowed inside stores.
The data and the social distancing trends indicate that New Jersey is ready to take this next step, Murphy said, and he thanked residents for practicing social distancing. “These trends are in the right direction, and it’s your doing, folks.”
The reopening of non-essential retail businesses also includes stores located at shopping malls, but those stores must adhere to the same guidelines, with only store employees being allowed inside and curbside delivery being provided. The interior areas of malls remain off-limits to customers.
Additionally, all non-essential retail employers must require infection control procedures, like regular handwashing, sanitization of high-touch areas, and proper disposal of used tissues, and allow employees sufficient break time for handwashing. Employees must wear gloves and face coverings when handling goods or interacting with customers. Employers must also provide staff with cleaning wipes and supplies, as well as with gloves, face coverings, and other needed protective equipment as required.
Non-essential construction may also resume at 6 a.m. Monday. However, construction will also be subject to specific guidelines. Site supervisors must restrict access to the site to prevent overcrowding. Workers must wear face coverings on site, and non-essential visitors may not visit the site. Proper sanitation must be provided, and work shifts and breaks must be staggered. Additionally, all regulations on social distancing and worker safety must be posted where workers can see them.
Gatherings of vehicles are not considered a violation of the emergency orders, as long as occupants remain in their vehicles with the windows up. But Murphy reiterated that residents should continue to remain at home as much as possible.
The financial impact on the state is expected to be severe. New Jersey lost $3.5 billion in revenue in April, Murphy said, adding that while New Jersey is hopeful of a recovery, the numbers are a reminder of the impact.
“This makes direct assistance from the federal government all the more urgent,” he said.
New Jersey was bracing itself for, in a worst-case scenario, as many as 36,000 people in the hospital at a time, with 9,000 people in intensive care.
“But because of your hard work, everybody, that never really happened,” Murphy said.
At the peak of the outbreak, there were 8,226 people in the hospital, with 2,015 people in critical care, and 1,659 patients on ventilators.
The governor also reiterated that New Jersey will not have one single date for reopening, and that residents may need to continue to practice social distancing for many months to come.
“Again, there is no light switch we can flip. We can only raise the dimmer switch.”
Murphy said officials were still in discussions on what would happen regarding town swimming pools and private swim clubs, and that further guidance on that may be expected later this week.
On Tuesday, New Jersey announced the expansion of COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, which Murphy said will help with tracking and containing the virus, particularly if there is a second wave in the near future.
On Wednesday, the state announced 1,028 new positives, up from 898 on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 141,560.
At 10 p.m. Tuesday, there were 4,226 people in the hospital, of whom 1,226 were in critical care, including 928 people on ventilators. Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that Wednesday marked the fourth consecutive day that fewer than 1,000 people were on ventilators.
There were also 197 additional deaths, one fewer than the 198 reported on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 9,702.
Tuesday saw 382 discharges and 364 new admissions, compared to 174 discharges and 360 new hospitalizations on Monday.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Essex County officials were reporting 71 new cases and 34 new deaths, bringing the county total to 15,905 cases and 1,482 deaths.
On Tuesday, Montclair health officials reported 391 cases and 47 deaths.
Persichilli said that there have been 18 reports of children, between the ages of three and 18, showing signs of systemic inflammatory response syndrome, which is often referred to as Kawasaki syndrome. All 11 of the children who were reported to have the condition on Tuesday were hospitalized, Persichilli said, and she said details were still pending on the seven that were reported on Wednesday.
Ed Lifshitz, the communicable disease service director for the Department of Health, reminded parents that Kawasaki syndrome, a rare syndrome affecting young children, should not be confused with the more common coxsackievirus, which causes hand, foot and mouth disease in young children.
Persichilli said that at least four of the children have tested positive for COVID-19. At least one of the cases was in Essex County.