COVID-19: Plans for reopening unfold
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
As New Jersey begins to reopen, retail will be curbside only and workers who have been working from home will continue to do so. Emphasis will be placed on reopening of institutions or businesses that offer outdoor activities, and gatherings will continue to be banned, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
Over the weekend, beaches began to open and today, May 18, the governor allowed for the reopening of batting cages, shooting and archery ranges, horseback riding, tennis clubs and community gardens this Friday.
Murphy also unveiled a multi-stage approach to execute an economic restart in New Jersey as COVID-19 numbers are slowing. The multi-stage plan, guided by the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission, and complementary Advisory Councils, plans for a methodical and strategic reopening of businesses and activities based on level of disease transmission risk and essential business and worker classification. But even with restrictions being lifted, there will be a new normal where the use of face masks, limitations on gatherings, and social distancing and extreme sanitization measures will continue.
“Our multi-stage approach uses science, data, and facts to determine which businesses and activities can reopen according to their risk level and challenges they face to safeguard public health,” Murphy said. “Additionally, we will be guided by our ability to protect against a new COVID-19 outbreak with expanded testing and contact tracing, and clear social distancing safeguards in place.
“We took these steps because the data we have seen over the last weeks has signaled it has become safer to begin to dip our toes back in the water,” he added.
The number of new hospitalizations has dropped 71 percent since April and 23 percent since May 3. Critical patients have dropped 36 percent since May 3. And ventilator use has dropped by 50 percent since the peak in April.
But deaths in New Jersey from the virus are now at 10,435.
From the maximum restrictions New Jersey placed on residents in March — with only healthcare, essential construction, day-care, manufacturing, and essential retail workers allowed to report to work — the state has now moved to “stage 1,” with the reopening of parks and beaches. Retail businesses are now allowed to offer curbside pickup and non-essential construction can resume.
“We are also counting on all New Jerseyans to continue keeping themselves and their neighbors safe by wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, and limiting gatherings,” Murphy said.
Stage 2, which could occur as early as mid-June, will see the reopening of expanded retail, restaurants with outdoor seating, limited personal care establishments, and possibly indoor dining, museums, and libraries, all with significantly reduced capacity.
Stage 3, will include the allowance of more work activities, including in-person meetings, but only if they can adhere to safeguarding guidelines and modifications; critical in-office work; expanded dining; limited entertainment; expanded personal care; and bars with limited capacity.
All workers who can work from home should continue to work from home. Though 25 percent of New Jersey’s workforce can be safeguarded from the virus by continuing to work from home, some 35 percent — including landscapers and construction and factory workers — are required to report to work but can have minimal contact. The remaining 40 percent are most at risk, including supermarket and pharmacy clerks, bartenders and restaurant workers. Only with reduced capacity, sanitization measures and face masks can this population be protected, Murphy said.
The governor added that he saw too few people wearing masks over the weekend.
REMDESIVIR TREAMENTS COME TO NJ
DR. Eddy Bresnitz announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the emergency use of remdesivir to treat hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. The FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization will enable appropriate patients more ready access to remdesivir at this time, due to the public health emergency. Gilead has donated 600,000 doses to the U.S to distribute to states based on hospitalizations due to COVID-19. New Jersey has received 563 cases or 22,520 doses. Each hospital in New Jersey has received the drug.
Officials reported 1,735 new cases today, an increase from the 1,245 reported on Sunday and the 1,239 on Saturday. Positive cases to date now number 148,039.
New deaths numbered 83 today, down from the 107 announced on Sunday and the 115 on Saturday. Officials said that new positives were most likely from residents getting tested on Thursday. The death number could be lower as Monday reports are typically lower.
The positivity rate continues to drop, with now 12 percent of tests resulting in positives, compared to 23 percent reported last week, and a rate that peaked at near 50 percent in April. The state is also not including antibody test results in its reportings, said Murphy.
Hospitalizations increased to 3,509 last night, up from the 3,411 on Saturday night, while the number of patients in critical care was at 1,053, with 819 on ventilators.
Essex County officials reported 109 new cases this morning for a total of 16,712. The county reported 15 new deaths, with the death toll now rising to 1,550.
As of today, the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from 398 to 403; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 47.