Will New Jersey’s data result in a hard date before the unofficial start of Summer?
Gov. Phil Murphy at his daily briefing May 11 foreshadowed there could be some loosening of restriction due to the coronavirus pandemic in the near future.
“We are getting data that is making us more comfortable and confident that we will soon give some hard dates as to when we can truly begin our road back through restart and recovery,” Murphy said.
Data Determines Dates
Murphy has used two mottos when asked about plans for easing stay-at-home restrictions in New Jersey: “Data determines dates” and “Public health creates economic health.”
From the governor’s comments at recent briefings, it appears he is becoming comfortable that the healthcare data is heading in the right direction to ease some economic restrictions.
Murphy continues to be vague about specific actions that would be taken or when, but has been continually pleased with hospital numbers across the state the past two weeks showing a downward curve in such categories as hospitalizations, ICU patients, ventilators in use and daily COVID-19 positive tests rates.
Flattening the Curve
“I’m hoping to put dates on the schedule very soon…assuming the curves keep going in the right direction,” said Murphy.
The next significant step in the governor’s Road Back plan will be announced on May 12, when he discloses the state’s plan for widespread coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
The six point Road Back plan features four health benchmarks the governor believes is critical to achieve so that residents will have confidence to restart the economy. Besides reductions in COVID-19 cases, expanded testing and having a contact tracing program, the other benchmarks are securing safe places for isolation and quarantine, executing a responsible economic restart and ensuring New Jersey’s resiliency in case the virus boomerangs.
The governor has received pushback from Republicans in the state, as GOP lawmakers in Bergen, Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties faulted the plan for not doing enough to help business or offer a defined timeline to restart the economy.
The first test residents passed in Murphy’s eye was the adherence to restrictions imposed on state and county parks when they reopened the first weekend of May that included parking lots limited to 50% capacity; playgrounds, restrooms, pavilions and visitors centers closed; and picnics and team sports are forbidden at state parks.
For golf courses, the new rules extended tee times to 16 minute intervals for two players at a time; one cart per person with exceptions made for family members; frequent cleaning of common areas including restrooms, ranges and carts; and pro shops and other amenities closed.
Shore, Beach Rules
And with Memorial Day weekend less than two weeks away, Murphy recently gave his most expansive answer on how he sees the opening of beaches and lakes amid the COVID-19 crisis.
According to Murphy, the guidance to be provided to Jersey shore and lake communities on how to operate will be based on those used for state parks and golf courses the first weekend in May.
“There are a number of feasible steps (to reopening) that we’re looking at right now that will give guidance over the next week or so,” said Murphy. “Beaches are on that list.”
The state can only give guidance as beaches and lakes are under the jurisdiction of local municipalities. But state officials have been in contact with local elected leaders as they form a plan.
“I will say the cooperation that we have in our deliberations…with municipalities and counties up and down the shore, as well as in our lake communities has been outstanding,” he stated. “I have a high degree of confidence that we will be, wherever it is that we end up, we will be in very good harmony.”