Construction joins COVID-19 restrictions list; exceptions for ‘essential’ projects (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//April 8, 2020//

Construction joins COVID-19 restrictions list; exceptions for ‘essential’ projects (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//April 8, 2020//

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Gov. Phil Murphy signed an order Wednesday evening to cease all “non-essential construction” starting at 8 p.m. on Friday, in the latest bid to clamp down on the COVID-19 global pandemic as it moves through New Jersey.

The order includes 14 carve outs, which cover construction at such places as hospitals, schools, transportation, utilities and emergency repairs.

Murphy’s order also enacts sweeping restrictions that must be adopted at worksites for “essential” construction, as well as at warehouses and manufacturing facilities.

“[W]orkers in the manufacturing, warehousing, and construction industries are typically forced to work in close contact with other individuals,” making social distancing even more difficult at these facilities, reads the order.

The orders are among the latest restrictions rolled out by the Murphy administration to promote social distancing which has seen tens of thousands of “non-essential retail” businesses ordered to close—grinding commerce to a halt in the state and leading to soaring joblessness.

“By ceasing all non-essential construction projects and imposing additional mitigation requirements on essential businesses, we are furthering our aggressive efforts to enforce social distancing and limiting our public interactions to only the most essential in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Murphy said in a Wednesday statement accompanying the order.

As of Wednesday afternoon, COVID-19 infected 47,347 New Jerseyans and claimed 1,504 lives.

Construction on health care facilities will be allowed, such as hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Work will also be allowed on transportation projects, such as roads and bridges, airports and seaports, and mass transit.

Utility work, such as electricity, will be allowed, as well as construction on affordable housing, social services and homeless shelters, K-12 and higher education facilities, and data centers.

Emergency repairs and vital maintenance work is allowed, such as to “ensure the structural integrity of any buildings on the site.”
Residential construction that is already underway can still continue, but with limits. Home repairs, for example, can continue provided crews are limited to five people, as can construction on residential projects where tenants have signed a lease to move in by a certain date.

Construction can continue on any buildings to handle the supply chain – such as distribution, warehousing or manufacturing – of products from “essential services” such as liquor stores and grocery stores, or pharmacies.

Work is allowed on projects to support law enforcement and first responders COVID-19 efforts, as well as on public contract work.

Manufacturing, warehousing and construction have to roll out a variety of sanitary policies for mitigating the risk of COVID-19 spreading through the worksite. And they have to enact certain policies outlined by the Murphy administration for workers who do test positive or show symptoms.

Businesses have to prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the worksite, and deny them entrance to the property entirely if they decline to wear face coverings.

Companies must all limit any worksite meetings of more than 10 people; restrict who can use bathrooms and common rooms; and stagger lunch breaks and work start and stop times to limit person-to-person interaction.

Workers will also have to wear face coverings, which along with gloves must be paid for by the employer.

Employees who test positive or show for COVID-19 have to be separated and sent home. Coworkers will have to be notified about the potential exposure, and that employee’s worksite would have to be cleaned and disinfected.

And those businesses, as well as any other allowed to stay open, that require their employees to be physically present, have to routinely clean high-traffic and frequently touched areas.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on  April 9, 2020, at 7:08 a.m. EST to provide details of the Executive Order.