New Jersey will move to Phase 2 of its reopening on Monday, allowing outdoor dining, limited-capacity nonessential retail, and day care centers to operate for the first time since mid-March.
At a news conference Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy defended the phased reopening against critics who have called on the state to move faster. New Jersey reported 495 new COVID-19 cases and 48 deaths Friday, continuing a downward trend that Murphy said the state must prioritize to avoid a resurgence of cases.
“We will move as quickly as we can, but as safely as we must,” Murphy said.
In Philadelphia, meanwhile, restaurants were allowed to serve diners on patios and sidewalks on Friday, provided the establishment was licensed, tables were six feet apart, and parties were limited to six people.
Earlier this week in the Garden State, the Asbury Park City Council authorized restaurants in the Shore city to operate indoor dining at limited capacity, in defiance of the governor’s orders. On Friday, Murphy said the state had been unable to resolve the issue with city officials and would file a lawsuit to enforce its order.
“We’re taking steps in small batches so that we have some amount of controlled variables,” Murphy said. “If we took 10 steps on Monday and had a flareup, it would be very hard to figure out which of those steps led to the flareup.”
Beginning Monday, libraries will be allowed to offer curbside pickup, the governor announced.
And while many nonessential retail stores will reopen at limited capacity and with requirements that all employees and shoppers wear masks, malls will remain closed — to the chagrin of townships in which these retail behemoths are major economic contributors.
This week, the mayors of Bridgewater, Elizabeth, Paramus, Wayne, and Woodbridge sent a letter urging the governor to allow malls to resume operations.
More businesses, including hair, nail and tanning salons; barber shops; hair braiding shops; massage parlors, day and medical spas; and tattoo parlors will be allowed to reopen June 22.
This category of businesses will be required to operate by appointment only, require face masks for employees and customers unless they must be removed for a service being performed, and adhere to social distancing guidelines. More guidelines are expected in the coming days.
As the state prepares for more businesses to reopen, the Health Department is gearing up its contact tracing program.
More than 500 people have signed up for a 15-hour training program by the Rutgers School of Public Health.
Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli urged residents to cooperate with contact tracers. All information shared is confidential and contact tracers will not ask about citizenship status.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, eight more counties — Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Luzerne, Monroe, Perry, Pike, and Schuylkill — will move to the “green” phase of reopening next Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday. There are currently 46 counties in green and 21 in “yellow,” including Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.
The state reported 686 new cases and 49 deaths Friday; Philadelphia reported 121 new cases and six deaths.
As more businesses regain their footing in the region’s yellow phase, Macy’s reopened 10 stores in the Philadelphia area. In-store shopping, curbside delivery and in-store pick-up are now open at Macy’s Center City department store as well as at Roosevelt, Concord, Christiana, Oxford Valley, Lehigh Valley, Montgomery, Springfield, King of Prussia, and Willow Grove Park malls.
Under Pennsylvania’s yellow phase, mall shops with exterior entrances are allowed to reopen if they follow the state’s safety protocol, but those with indoor-only entrances must remain closed.
Delaware malls were allowed to reopen at 30% of capacity in early May.
Also, 20 state liquor stores in Philadelphia, two in Montgomery County, and one in Delaware County also reopened for “limited in-store access” on Friday, according to the Liquor Control Board. No more than 25 people — including both employees and customers — will be allowed in a store at one time, and the first hour each store is open will be reserved for customers 65 and older.
Also on Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a COVID-19 news teleconference for the first time in months. Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases, called attention to three surveys conducted in early May and published in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that found widespread support for stay-at-home and shutdown orders. The national approval rate was 80%, and the rate was even higher in New York City and Los Angeles.
Butler also released pages of “considerations” to help people decide whether and how much to resume normal activities. The advice stressed the familiar triumvirate of precautions: wash hands, wear a mask in public, and stay six feet away from other people.
Mandates requiring face masks in public were associated with 66,000 fewer infections in New York City between April 17 and May 9, according to a new report published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Masks may have prevented 78,000 infections in Italy between early April and early May.