Gov. Phil Murphy said he is rolling back restrictions on non-essential construction, and allowing non-essential retail to reopen for online ordering and curbside pickups only.
Both are prohibited under a sweeping host of restrictions and a near-total lockdown meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, which have shown many signs of working. But, will be allowed to resume operations at 6:00 a.m. on May 18, according to Murphy.
Purchases will only be permitted through online ordering, and in-person store visits will be prohibited.
“We make these decisions based on what we believe can be safely reopened and operated and we are sequencing,” Murphy said Wednesday at his daily COVID-19 press briefing.
Drive-thru events, such as religious services and drive-in theaters, will also be allowed and will not be considered “a violation of my order prohibiting mass gatherings, so long as all participants remain in their cars,” the governor said.
“If vehicles are closer than 6 feet apart, then all windows, sunroofs or convertible tops must remain closed, unless the safety of the occupants is endangered,” the governor added.
Those changes go into effect immediately.
Non-essential retail has been closed since March 21, and those shops allowed to stay open must require all customers to wear face-coverings and maintain a six-foot minimum distance from each other. Restaurants can stay open but only to offer delivery and take-out.
Construction has been limited in the state since April 10, but this new order would allow any kind of construction to continue – something backed by legislative leadership.
Under the Wednesday announcement, construction sites must have clear postings of safety protocols, prohibit non-essential visitors, stagger work hours and breaks, and implement thorough sanitation.
Murphy said he’ll have “hard dates” this week on when more restrictions will be lifted, including hopefully regarding a roll back to restrictions on elective surgeries.
Those procedures have been banned in the state since March 27, so as to funnel available medical resources toward the state’s health care system to handle the then-mounting pandemic.
“New hospitalizations are down two-thirds from the peak. Total hospitalizations are down nearly half since the peak. The number of patients in the [intensive care unit] and on ventilators are both down significantly,” Murphy added.
Just how much the state rolls back restrictions, and how quickly, depends on what kind of health care infrastructure is in place to identify, track down and isolate potential outbreaks of COVID-19, and to respond to a widely expected second wave of cases.
That means that “if we see any flare-up, we have a plan that you believe in, that can quickly snuff that out, track it down, and isolate it,” Murphy added, calling it a “reality that we’re going to be in for, I guess, months at least.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:46 p.m. EST on May 13, 2020 following the governor’s official announcement regarding restrictions on non-essential construction and retail businesses in the state. The plan to sign the order was previously reported by NJBIZ after being confirmed by an administration source; it was first reported by New Jersey Globe.