New Jersey, Connecticut and New York agreed to a shutdown of casinos, movie theaters, gyms, bars and restaurants starting at 8 p.m. Monday, until further notice, in the latest bid to stop the potential spread of the coronavirus in the tri-state region.
The closures and curfews are not mandatory, but rather recommendations Gov. Phil Murphy is asking New Jersey residents to follow.
Restaurants will be able to provide delivery and takeout, the governors of the three states jointly announced at a March 16 briefing with reporters. A voluntary curfew will go into effect between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Monday in New Jersey for all “non-essential” travel, which Murphy maintained is a recommendation.
“But for those of you who do not need to be out, please just stay home,” Murphy said at a Monday afternoon press conference at his Trenton office.
Businesses can stay open during the day if they host no more than 50 people at a time.
As of Monday, the virus infected 178 New Jersey residents and claimed two lives, Murphy said.
“If you’re a bar or a restaurant you’re closing tonight at 8 p.m.,” said Murphy alongside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont.
Essential retail – grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices and gas stations – will remain open, Murphy said.
The Monday announcement means the closure of the state’s nine casinos in Atlantic City. Although many offer online products, the loss of foot-traffic to the city could mean steep declines in hotel, food and retail profits.
Murphy said that at 2 p.m. he will announce a statewide shutdown of all New Jersey’s schools.
The cancellation of events and closures of businesses, proponents argue, will create the kind of “social distancing” to prevent person-to-person interactions that could hasten the spread of the coronavirus.
“Not enough is being done. There is too much business as usual,” Murphy said Sunday at a two-hour briefing with reporters on the coronavirus. “We’ve got to shake the state. That doesn’t mean we need to panic. [But] business as usual just ain’t getting done,” the governor added.
Murphy declared a public health emergency earlier in the month, which grants him sweeping powers to take action that could contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The governor admitted on Monday that the latest closures could send shockwaves through the state’s businesses and markets, which have already felt pains in their profit.
There’s no easy calls on this.
– Gov. Phil Murphy
A study by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and another by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, both released Monday, show employers are considering cutting staff, or the amount of hours they work, to break even during the outbreak.
“There’s no easy calls on this,” Murphy said. “A lot of the calls come with enormous pressure on the economy.”
The loss of revenue for businesses could also mean steep drops to the amount of tax money flowing into the state’s coffers, which could pose a problem for New Jersey as budget talks pick up ahead of the June 30 deadline. A series of bills moving through the state Assembly, and others proposed by Senate leadership, would aim to take the pressure off those businesses.
“We should … take what actions we can to minimize the economic impact on individuals, families and businesses in New Jersey,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said Saturday.
Editor’s note: As previously indicated, this breaking news item was updated at 12:10 p.m. EST on March 16, 2020 to include more details surrounding the details of closures effective in the tri-state area on March 16. This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. EST on March 16 to update the number of cases of COVID-19 infections in New Jersey, include details pertaining to retail outlets, and to clarify that the measures announced by the governors of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are recommendations, and not mandates.