NJ Reopens Outdoor Dining, In-Person Retail and Child Care

(AP/Hamodia) -
A sign promoting social distancing hangs from a fence in Hamilton Park above the Hudson River with the New York City skyline of Manhattan in the background, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Weehawken, New Jersey, April 3. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

A week after New York began with an initial reopening, New Jersey on Monday enters phase two of Gov. Phil Murphy’s reopening road map, opening up outdoor dining, in-person retail and child care services with restrictions in place to reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

New Jersey now has one of the nation’s lowest transmission rates as well as one of its most robust testing programs, according to Murphy. More than one million coronavirus tests have been administered in New Jersey in just over 100 days.

“Over the past several weeks we’ve been able to take our first steps on our road back because we stayed true to our guiding principles: Public health creates economic health. Data determines dates,” Murphy said.

Meanwhile, Asbury Park backed off Friday on its plans to offer indoor dining beginning Monday, in defiance of a state order.

Asbury Park’s council had authorized restaurants to offer indoor dining with restrictions beginning Monday, violating Murphy’s executive order. After the state sued on Friday and a judge issued an order temporarily blocking the town’s attempt, Mayor John Moor and the council released a statement Friday evening recommending that restaurants not serve diners indoors.

“We are advising Asbury Park businesses not to open indoors as we had announced earlier this week, as opening indoors would violate the court order and could jeopardize your business’s liquor licenses” and subject businesses to fines and other penalties, the statement said.

As part of the second phase of the state’s efforts to reopen its economy, Murphy has authorized outdoor dining and nonessential retail but hasn’t authorized indoor dining. Murphy said Friday he would crack down on businesses that weren’t in compliance.

“We have one set of rules and they are based on one principle, and that is ensuring public health,” he said.

Murphy has not indicated when restaurants will be able to reopen for indoor seating, aside from saying he hoped it would be “sooner rather than later.”

Business owners and town leaders have chafed at being forced to remain closed as the pandemic gradually subsides in New Jersey. Last month, health officials closed a southern New Jersey gym that had received several summonses after a highly publicized reopening in defiance of a state order.

Also on Friday, Murphy announced summer schools can begin in-person classes on July 6 if they adhere to safety protocols including social distancing, temperature checks and staggering pickup and drop-off times.

Personal care services can reopen on June 22, as can pools and outdoor, non-contact organized sports.