Murphy Administration Sues Asbury Park to Enforce Indoor Dining Rules

Following through on his previous day’s warning, Gov. Phil Murphy directed the state’s Attorney General to sue Asbury Park in regards to its indoor dining plan set to go into effect June 15.

At the top of his press briefing June 12, Murphy stated “We have worked with the governing body of Asbury Park to try to amicably resolve the issue of their resolution regarding indoor dining. Unfortunately, they have not done so.” 

Later in the day, a state judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the indoor dining plan set to go into effect June 15. Asbury Park’s council stated in a press release after the ruling their are advising restaurants in the city to halt any plans for indoor dining due to penalties that could include fines or even the loss of the business’s liquor licenses.

The conflict stems from Asbury Park officials taking the stance that since indoor gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis were increased on June 10 to 50 people or 25% of capacity, whichever is lower, restaurants and bars should be permitted to open.

AG Lawsuit

The Murphy Administration disputed this interpretation, saying an executive order the governor has signed related to the coronavirus pandemic specifically prohibits indoor dining. 

“We have one set of rules and they are based on one principle—ensuring public health,” said Murphy. “”The Attorney General will be bringing a lawsuit … against Asbury Park to enforce our orders.”

This will be the first time Murphy has used the Attorney General to go to court to apply his executive order. Violations up until now have been enforced through summonses decided by local officials.

The first-term Democratic governor declined to answer if New Jersey State Police would be sent to enforce the order.

Accelerating Reopening

The conflict comes on the eve of the state taking its next big step in reopening. 

In recent weeks, state officials have begun to slowly reopen the state and its economy in a phased roll out. Outdoor dining and retail stores are set to open June 15, followed by hair salons, nail salons and barbershops on June 22.

Earlier in the week, the stay-at-home order in effect since March 21 was lifted and gathering limits were increased. Indoor gatherings of no more than 50 are allowed beginning June 12, with the limits on outdoor gatherings were expanded to its current 100 limit and scheduled to grow to 500 starting July 3. Exemptions were given for those exercising their First Amendment Rights, specifically protests and religious gatherings.

Outdoor Arguments

Murphy argued that indoor settings are much more difficult to contain the spread of the coronavirus than outdoor, an defense he has used in responding to criticisms for joining protests over the death of Geroge Floyd that exceeded outdoor gathering limits of 25 people on June 7.

“There’s no question this virus is multiple more times lethal inside than outside,” stated Murphy. 

Murphy said he hopes to get to indoor dining soon. He defended the state’s process in opening the economy in relation to the state’s health data. 

Following the Plan

“We have to get there at the right time responsibly,” he said. “There’s a method to what we’re doing here, folks, in many respects.”

According to Murphy, steps are being taken in small batches so that health officials can learn more about the disease, which in turns helps guide informed decisions.

Daily Data

As of June 12, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 166,164 with 495 new cases and 48 new deaths, bringing that total to 12,489. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,728, followed by Bergen at 1,649, Hudson with 1,246, Passaic at 988, Morris at 632, Sussex at 149 and Warren with 138. 

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of June 8 rested at 2.5%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. By region, the north tested at 2.0%, the central at 2.4% and the south 4.2%.

Officials reported 1,480 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 117 new hospitalizations—while 133 patients were discharged. The north tier had 620 patients hospitalized, the central 479 and the south 381.

The daily discharge and new hospitalizations by tier for June 12 was the north charting 24 hospitalizations and 52 discharges, the central having 61 hospitalizations and 38 discharges, and the south reporting 32 hospitalizations and 43 discharges.   

Of those hospitalized, 415 are in intensive care units and 300 on ventilators. There are currently nine patients in field hospitals, with 475 treated overall. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 18,743, followed by Hudson at 18,693, Essex at 18,295, Passaic at 16,581, Middlesex at 16,353, Union at 16,351, Ocean at 9,200, Monmouth at 8,660, Mercer at 7,295, Camden at 6,952, Morris at 6,556, Burlington at 4,848, Somerset at 4,736, Cumberland at 2,645, Atlantic at 2,453, Gloucester at 2,379, Warren at 1,200, Sussex at 1,150, Hunterdon at 1,034, Salem at 699 and Cape May at 664.

Another 677 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 19% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 59% had cardiovascular disease, 43% diabetes, 32% other chronic diseases, 17% neurological conditions, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for 9,941 confirmed deaths shows 47% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 33% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 4% under the age of 49. 

State officials are tracking cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children who in turn  test positive for COVID-19. One new case was reported June 12, bringing the total cases to 40 for children ranging in age from 1-18. All have tested positive for COVID-19 or have antibodies in their blood.  Three are currently hospitalized. No deaths have been reported from the disease. 

Persichilli stated “Black and Hispanic children account for a disproportionately high number” on a national scale. While only a small sample, Persichilli reported the racial breakdown in New Jersey was 34% Black, 38% Hispanic, 22% White, 6% Asian and 3% other.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 551 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 35,041 of the cases, broken down between 23,375 residents and 11,666staff. The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, which was 5,768 on June 10. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,281 residents deaths and 114 staff deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown:  

Bergen County

  • 63  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 3226 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 1675 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 921  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 11  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Essex County

  • 46  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 2141 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 1010 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 563  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 19  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Morris County

  • 42  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1421 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 679 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 468  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 3  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Passaic County

  • 25  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1253 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 737 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 366  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 14  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Hudson County 

  • 15  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 989 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 529 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 245  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 8  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Sussex County

  • 7  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 254 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 138 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 107  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 4  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Warren County 

  • 7  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 407 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 131 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 113  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 1  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

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