More Restrictions Lifted for New Jersey Businesses as Officials Outline Need for Beds

Gov. Phil Murphy again increased the type of businesses allowed to operate in the state, even as the governor suggested life will not return to normal anytime soon.

“This will bleed meaningfully into May,” Murphy said during a phone interview with a local tv show March 30. “I’m not sure when the right moment will be.”

Among those businesses allowed to operate more freely are car dealerships, real estate agents, breweries and gun shops. 

“While we’ve made adjustments to businesses that are permitted to operate, my stay-at-home order remains firmly in effect,” said Murphy. “Unless you absolutely need to get out, or unless your job is critical to our response, I have ordered all New Jerseyans to just stay home.”

No Open Houses

The state will now allow individual appointments to view real estate, while still prohibiting open houses as they considered those opportunities as impermissible gatherings. 

Car dealers may continue to conduct online or remote sales consistent with current law. In the event of such a sale, the car may be delivered to the purchaser or the purchaser can pick up the car curbside or in the dealership service lane.

Breweries and brew pubs were granted special permission to conduct home deliveries as well. But the state clarified golf courses are considered recreational and entertainment businesses that must be closed to the public and to members associated with private golf clubs.

Gun Shops Open

Additionally, the governor said in accordance with the guidance released by the federal Department of Homeland Security, firearms retailers are permitted to operate—by appointment only and during limited hours—to conduct business which, under law, must be done in person. 

“It wouldn’t be my definition, but that’s the definition at the federal level and I didn’t get a vote on that,” said Murphy.

The daily press conference began with the announcement that as of March 30, the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey climbed to 16,636 with 3,347 new cases and 37 new deaths, bringing that total to 198.  

Bergen Total Nears 2,500

Bergen is still the primary hot spot in the state with 2,482 total cases, followed by Essex at 1,564, Hudson at 1,314, Union at 1,213, Middlesex at 1,123, Passaic at 1,091, Monmouth at 1,030, Ocean at 874, Morris at 720, Somerset at 349, Mercer at 249, Camden at 200, Burlington at 178, Sussex at 113, Gloucester at 89, Hunterdon at 79, Warren at 68, Atlantic at 29, Cumberland at 12, Cape May at nine and Salem at three. 

Another 3,847 cases remain under investigation to determine where the person who tested positive resides.

Social Distancing Helping

Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli showed through charts how social distancing has worked when it comes to the need of hospital beds. One chart showed without social distancing, the state would have run out of hospital beds on April 1, using the COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics pioneered by Penn Medicine. 

State officials, working with an estimate of 31% of residents are social distancing themselves based on efforts in past epidemics, showed how the curve would flatten and make the pandemic more manageable.

“It is our best understanding of how fast COVID-19 would have spread across our state without social distancing,” said Murphy. 

40-45% Adhering 

Persichilli estimated 40% to 45% of that state is adhering to the social distancing requirements.  She said with 50%, New Jersey could weather the expected surge of coronavirus patients even with existing hospital capacity. 

Even with the state under a stay-at-home order, New Jersey is expected to run out of ICU beds on April 11 and hospital beds entirely on May 8, under the assumption “we’ve done nothing to increase capacity,” Persichilli said. “If we were doing nothing with our hospitals, no planning, we would be short.”

Increasing Beds

But the state is working to combat the shortage by opening three FEMA-backed field hospitals, hospitals mandated to double their ICU capacity by repurposing other beds and equipment, dorms and hotels being appropriated for medical care as needed and the reopening of closed hospitals.

Persichilli said she expects New Jersey’s permanent hospitals to essentially become all-out intensive care operations. Less critical needs will be served by the spillover into the temporary facilities.

Professionals Needed

“But we need personnel to operate these expansions,” said Persichilli. The governor noted about 3,600 certified medical professionals have volunteered in recent days to help as well as Rutgers graduating its medical students early.

Pointing out that they are New Jersey’s “number one need right now,” Gov. Murphy said the state is getting 300 ventilators from the national stockpile of the 2,300 they asked for.

“We are looking everywhere, including private sources,” said Murphy. 

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