Murphy outlines stages for New Jersey’s economic reopening

New Jersey is well into the first stage of its economic reopening, but even as the state advances toward its “new normal,” the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on daily life will likely linger well beyond when typical economic activities resume, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

“Today, the practices and protocols put in place after 9/11 are part of our routines,” Murphy said during his daily briefing, citing airport security checks and tighter licensing restrictions implemented after the September 11 terrorist attacks. “In many ways, the aftermath of this pandemic will be similar.”

Monday’s briefing in Trenton marked the first time Murphy has offered a clear sense of how he envisions the nuts and bolts of New Jersey’s revival, categorizing different industries, workforce segments and activities into one of four “stages” of recovery.

He’s assembled both a council and a commission to help guide the state through the process, which remains contingent upon major upgrades to New Jersey’s testing and contact tracing regimes. He presented a high-level road map for the state’s recovery in late April.

New Jersey is currently in stage one, with Murphy having already lifted some restrictions on park visits, beach outings and certain retail. The second stage, which includes more retail activities, outside dining and the reopening of libraries and museums, could come within “a matter of weeks” if New Jersey continues to see declines in new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, he said.

Stage three will involve an even greater loosening of in-office work, dining, personal care businesses like salons and barbershops, as well as bars (with limited capacity) and some entertainment venues.

Murphy labeled the final stage “New Normal,” which won’t happen until there’s a vaccine for coronavirus or, at the very least, effective and available treatments.

And even then, with at least 10,435 New Jerseyans having died of Covid-19, and 3,509 other residents still in the state’s hospitals, the trappings of daily life through the pandemic — face coverings, hand sanitizer and appreciation of personal space — will almost certainly carry into the future.

“I don’t mean we’ll be in lockdown mode until then, but we’re going to need to be minding our P’s and Q’s,” he said.

Over the next several months, even as the administration offers guidance for restaurants and nonessential businesses to reopen, rules and guidance related to face coverings and periodic hand-washing “will become second nature,” Murphy said.

“We will all have to continue practicing our social distancing and staying home whenever possible,” he said. “We will have to recognize that mass public gatherings, large and small, won’t be happening anytime soon.”

The state’s transition from one stage to the next won’t come in one fell swoop, Murphy said. Different industries will receive the green light to move ahead with normal or modified operations on a case-by-case basis, taking into account public health risks.

On Monday, Murphy signed an executive order allowing batting cages, golf ranges, shooting and archery ranges, horseback riding, private tennis clubs and community gardens to reopen. Golf courses can now allow foursomes to hit the links.

Outdoor religious services and, possibly, school commencement ceremonies may be allowed to proceed at some point in the near future as well.

“In each case we have to be careful how we deal with this,” Murphy said, noting that every activity and business presents unique challenges.

During the briefing, Murphy announced 1,735 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the statewide total since the first case was confirmed in early March to 148,039. The 10,435 statewide deaths include 83 since Sunday.

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