By Ilana Siyance
Monday June 15th, marks the beginning of Stage 2 in New Jersey in adherence to Gov. Phil Murphy’s multi-phase reopening plan. After close to three months of shutdown of all nonessential businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monday marks the reopening of outdoor dining at restaurants and bars, and allows shoppers inside of nonessential retail stores at half capacity. On Sunday, Gov. Murphy took the time to clarify other changes that Stage 2 will prompt. Libraries will open for curbside pickup, yard sales, real estate open houses and car washes will resume.
“This is a big day,” Murphy said Monday morning during an interview for the NBC Today show. “We’re slowly but surely getting back on our feet. We’re opening back up and it feels great.” As reported by NJ.com, the state of NJ has lost more than 12,625 residents to the novel virus, with at least 166,881 total Covid-19 positive test results since early March. The state was the second hardest hit in the U.S., following only New York. This Sunday alone, the state of NJ reported 40 new deaths and 305 new cases for the last 24 hours.
All the reopening outlines in Stage 2 continue to require social distancing of at least six feet, face coverings when plausible, frequent hand washing and more recurrent sanitizing of frequently-touched surfaces. Health Officials will continue to closely monitor any spikes in cases, and adjust the plan if necessary. As issued by the governor and the state Department of Health, details of the reopening include many restrictions. For outdoor dining for instance, there were roughly 20 requirements, including limiting access to indoor areas except bathrooms. Bars and restaurants must also post signs that say patrons with a fever or symptoms of the coronavirus shouldn’t enter. Outdoor seating must limit each table to eight customers, and provide six feet of space between tables. Further, employees must wear face coverings and gloves, and buffets and salad bars must remain closed.
Retail stores will be opening at half capacity, with both employees and customers required to done masks. Stores must offer special shopping hours for seniors and high-risk individuals whenever possible. Stores should also install physical barriers, such as Plexiglass, between customers and employees, and regularly sanitize surfaces frequently used. Though indoor malls remain closed, the stores that have exterior doors may reopen.
Day care centers are also reopened as of Monday. It is required to have temperature checks for staff and children. Class sizes will be limited, and switching staff between groups will be prohibited. Staff members must wear masks but the children will not be required to do so, although it is encouraged.
The Motor Vehicle Commission offices will be opened for some pick up and drop offs. Plexiglass barriers have been installed in the offices, and floors have been taped to clarify the distance requirements. The agency plans to restart behind-the-wheel road tests and issuing new licenses and permits on June 29.
Houses of worship were opened for indoor religious gatherings at 25% of a buildings capacity or 50 people, whichever number is fewer. The size for outdoor religious gatherings has been increased too. Masks are recommended.
Outdoor special events such as legal firework displays, are permitted with a crowd limit of 100 people. That outdoor occupancy limit may become more lenient in time for July 4th festivities, allowing for 250 or 500 people, depending on the number of new cases. Other reopened businesses include open houses for real estate listings, but face coverings must be worn and a limit of indoor traffic must be enforced. Also, students will be allowed to enter school premises to retrieve personal belongings, return books and empty lockers. Libraries can reopen, with limited staff, providing outdoor and curbside pickups and drop offs.
Stage 2 will also later include the opening of hair and nail salons, barbershops, and other personal-care businesses, as of June 22. On that date, pools and other outdoor, non-contact organized sports can also open. Day camps for youth and in-person summer school can open, with restrictions, beginning on July 6. Gyms and fitness centers are among the businesses listed for Stage 2 opening, but a date has not yet been announced. Atlantic City’s casinos will also be part of stage 2, and might be opened in time for Independence Day.