By ERIN ROLL
After shuttering on March 17, Gov. Phil Murphy announced today that malls will be allowed to reopen starting on June 29.
“Certainly, malls are part of New Jersey lore and culture,” Murphy said, as much as in, if not more, than any other state, adding that New Jersey residents wanted malls to reopen as soon as possible.
When malls reopen, stores will be limited to a 50-percent customer capacity, and restaurants can offer food for takeout or for outdoor dining only. Communal areas such as food courts will remain closed or cordoned off.
All customers and staff must wear masks or face coverings while inside a mall, and stores and mall management will have to conduct regular cleaning and sanitation.
Mall operators will set building-specific policies, including customer flow patterns and designated entry/exit points.
Inside entertainment venues such as movie theaters and arcades will remain closed.
Malls are the latest businesses in New Jersey that have been allowed to reopen. This month, state officials allowed non-essential retail businesses to open their physical locations, but at 50 percent capacity. Next week, personal care businesses such as salons, barber shops, massage therapy studios and tattoo parlors will be permitted to reopen.
Mall stores with exterior entrances were allowed to reopen along with other non-essential retail stores for curbside pickup in May, but the interior sections of malls remained closed.
New Jersey has seen an uptick in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. Officials reported an additional 442 new cases, up from 330 on Wednesday, bringing the state total to 168,107.
Fewer deaths were reported, however, with 38 new deaths related to the virus, down from 47 on Wednesday, with the state death toll now at 12,800.
Hospitals reported a total of 1,268 patients last night, down from 1,268 on Wednesday. The patient count included 319 critical care patients and 257 ventilators in use. The number represents a drop in critical care patients from 358, but an increase in ventilators from 254 from the night before. Yesterday, hospitals admitted 73 new patients and sent home 134 live patients, compared to 64 new admissions and 92 discharges the night before.
The positivity rate stands at 2.94 percent, down from yesterday’s 3.5 percent. However, the virus transmission rate increased, from 0.07 on Wednesday to 0.75 on Thursday.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli reported no new cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, and the state total remains at 43.
On Thursday, Essex County health officials reported 54 new cases, compared to 60 new cases yesterday, with the county total now at 18,491 cases. The number of deaths was revised downward by four, and the number of deaths now stands at 1,750, compared to Wednesday’s 1,754. Yesterday saw 12 new deaths related to the virus.
On Thursday, Montclair health officials reported one new case, bringing the total to 434, and the number of deaths remains at 50. After a four-day span with no increases, the town has seen an increase of one a day over the past five days.