• March 31, 2020

Closings, curfews amid COVID-19 - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Closings, curfews amid COVID-19

State implements strong measures to help stop spread

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Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2020 4:47 pm | Updated: 5:16 pm, Tue Mar 17, 2020.

TRENTON — New restrictions on travel and widespread closings announced this week are aimed at encouraging residents to stay home and practice social distancing during the rapidly spreading worldwide novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont jointly announced a regional approach to combatting COVID-19 throughout the tri-state area. 

The three states limited crowd capacity to 50 people, effective 8 p.m. Monday, March 16. This follows updated guidance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued March 15 recommending the cancellation or postponement of in-person events consisting of 50 people or more.

Just days before the announcement, Murphy called for the cancellation of public events with more than 250 people. 

The three governors also announced that restaurants and bars will offer take-out and delivery services only. These establishments will be provided a waiver for carry-out alcohol. 

In addition, the three governors said they were temporarily closing all gyms, movie theaters and casinos effective March 16. 

In addition, Murphy issued travel restrictions from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. statewide.

“All nonessential and nonemergency travel in New Jersey is strongly discouraged,” Murphy said. “If you don’t need to be on the roads, you shouldn’t be on the roads.”  

New Jersey is the first state to implement such a curfew on nighttime travel. 

According to the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE), as of March 16, 179,073 cases of CORVID-19 have been reported worldwide, with 7,074 deaths reported. Worldwide, 78,078 people have recovered from the virus. In the United States, there are 4,138 confirmed cases with 62 deaths.  

In New Jersey, 178 people tested positive for COVID-19 and two have died. As of March 16, the positive cases in New Jersey were: Bergen County, 61; Essex County, 20; Hudson County, 19; Middlesex County, 17; Monmouth County, 14; Passaic County, 8; Union County, 8; Mercer County, 6; Morris County, 6; Burlington County, 5; Somerset County, 5; Camden County, 3; Ocean County, 3; and Hunterdon County, 1. 

“With all we are seeing in our state — and across our nation and around the world — the time for us to take our strongest, and most direct, actions to date to slow the spread of coronavirus is now,” Murphy said. “I’ve said many times over the past several days that, in our state, we are going to get through this as one New Jersey family. But if we’re all in this together, we must work with our neighboring states to act together. The work against coronavirus isn’t just up to some of us, it’s up to all of us.” 

This uniform approach to social distancing is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

COVID-19 is responsible for the novel coronavirus pandemic which was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and quickly spread to the Hubei Province and several other countries. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, a shortness of breath and can spread from person to person via respiratory droplets produced when people cough or sneeze. 

On March 9, Murphy declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency to ramp up New Jersey’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

Executive Order No. 103 declares a State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency across in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties, allowing state agencies and departments to use state resources to assist affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases.

The declaration tasks the State Director of Emergency Management and Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, Col. Patrick Callahan, in conjunction with New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, to oversee the implementation of the State Emergency Operations plan and generally direct the state’s emergency response. 

The declaration also triggers other executive powers and safeguards, such as prohibiting excessive price increases pursuant to New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and the ability to waive certain procurement procedures to expedite the delivery of goods and services necessary for coronavirus preparedness and response efforts. 

The emergency declaration also empowers all state agencies, specifically the Departments of Banking and Insurance, Health, Human Services, and the Civil Service Commission to take all appropriate steps to address the public health hazard of COVID-19. 

In a March 16 press conference, Murphy said that supermarkets and grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices and gas stations can remain open past 8 p.m. 

Murphy said all casinos, racetracks, movie theaters, performing arts centers, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centers and fitness classes will close entirely until such time it is deemed safe for their re-opening.

“Good news is online gaming will continue. Bad news is there’s not much to wager on,” Murphy said. 

All other nonessential retail, recreational or entertainment businesses must close at 8 p.m. every night, he said. 

Businesses may remain open during their daytime hours but only if they limit their occupancy to no more than 50 people and adhere to social distancing guidelines, Murphy noted. 

All bars and restaurants are closed for eat-in services until 8 p.m. After 8 p.m. these establishments may remain open for take-out or delivery orders only. 

Murphy said healthy people may be asymptomatic but still carrying coronavirus and putting the lives of others at risk, particularly older people in the community and their families. 

“We have got to put an end to this business as usual. To the folks who think this isn’t real, trust me, it’s real,” Murphy said. “To those who think it can’t affect them, I’m here to tell you it can. Just as it is not time to panic, but it is time to be smart, proactive, aggressive as we’re being, it is equally not time for business as usual.” 

Murphy said he spoke with both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during a video conference with other governors. 

Murphy said he discussed with Trump and Pence that New Jersey is one of 12 states that will be standing up testing sites in conjunction with the federal government and specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

“On our call today, I pressed the president and vice president and their teams for more personal protective equipment for our frontline public health workers for more on the ground assistance and helping FEMA setting up with testing and to prepare to support our businesses, our workers and our economy when we come out of this emergency, which we inevitably will do,” Murphy said. 

Persichilli said the extraordinary steps the state is taking by closing schools, colleges, restaurants, gyms and casinos will help stop the spread of the virus. She said counties that are hardest hit have taken more restrictions to limit exposure to COVID-19. 

“These aggressive social distancing steps are not trying to scare you. They are intended to stop the further spread of COVID-19,” Persichilli said. “We expect that the spread of the virus can be slowed if we act now and if we act together. Each of us must take personal responsibility by breaking the cycle of this outbreak in our communities.”

Persichilli said residents might be worried about being exposed and a loss of income associated with staying at home and feel isolated. 

She recommended checking in with friends and family members via telephone or videoconferencing to stay connected and maintaining structure in a daily routine. 

“Although it’s difficult to predict, I suggest that we can expect several more weeks of significant activity and then hopefully things will stabilize if we all take a part in avoiding the spread,” Persichilli said. 

Murphy mobilized the National Guard to assist by helping with drive-through virus testing, reopening closed hospitals, and converting buildings for quarantines if necessary.   

Adjutant General Jemal J. Beale said the National Guard will work closely with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to assist residents.

“Please know that we are monitoring the current situation and are monitoring best practices implemented nationally by our counterparts in other states,” Beale said. “Our most likely mission sets are focused on capability gaps. They are things like advise and assist, logistics, transportation, traffic control, security or bringing in our engineers to bring a facility back on line that’s needed in some way, shape or form for COVID-19. Wish us luck and please wash your hands on a regular basis and also practice social distancing.”   

Murphy said all schools both public and private have been closed statewide.

State Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet said the aggressive mitigation efforts are made in the best interest of public health. 

“In my decades of experience in education I have never seen a challenge as complex and as profound as to which we are facing today,” Repollet said. “An unprecedented challenge requires an unprecedented response.”

Repollet said 90 percent of the state’s schools are closed and are providing remote learning as per preparedness plans.

“These plans will help ensure continuity of instruction, critical services, and food securities,” Repollet said.

All new civil and criminal jury trials in New Jersey have been suspended until further notice, according to an order from New Jersey Superior Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. The state will continue with ongoing jury trials, however. 

“While jury trials are a critical component of our justice system, this extraordinary step is necessary to protect the health and safety of the community. At the same time, we will make every effort to keep our court system running in the face of this health crisis,” Rabner said in a statement.

The Judiciary has been preparing for a potential move to virtual and telephonic proceedings for all non-jury matters. 

“It is imperative that we take action to avoid large public gatherings at our court facilities. At the same time, we will leverage our technological capabilities so that other court proceedings can continue with minimal disruption to our justice system,” said Judge Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts. 

The Judiciary also announced it would suspend all out-of-state work travel by Judiciary staff, cancel all non-essential events including tours, and hold all conferences and committee meetings via video. 

On March 15, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Sue Fulton has announced that all New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agency and road testing facilities were to be closed effectively immediately as a measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The administration estimates re-opening in two weeks, on Monday, March 30.

All drivers license, non-driver IDs, vehicle registrations, and inspection stickers expiring before May 31 have been extended by two months.

Most renewals, replacements, change of address and other transactions can be processed online at NJMVC.gov.

Residents with questions about COVID-19 can call the NJ COVID-19 and Poison Center Public Hotline at (800) 962-1253 or (800) 222-1222 or visit nj.gov./health. The hotline is not to locate testing, to get results, or for medical advice. 

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