COVID-19: As numbers grow, restaurants, theaters, gyms to shut down tonight
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
New Jersey has announced a statewide travel restriction from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and closures of all restaurants, bars and schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The state announced a surge of 80 new cases of the virus, bringing the statewide total to 178, 20 of which are in Essex County. The number of cases in Montclair remains at three, Montclair Health Director Sue Portuese said Monday afternoon.
Restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters will all close in the state until further notice beginning tonight, March 16, at 8 p.m., per a joint announcement from the governors of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. What was termed as a “curfew” earlier in the day is actually a travel restriction, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
“Stay home,” he said. “This is not fake news. This is real.”
All non-essential businesses are to close by 8 p.m. Essential stores such as grocers, pharmacies, gas stations and medical facilities can stay open past 8 p.m., but occupancy should be limited to no more than 50. Daycare centers could remain open.
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Restaurants must only offer take-out and delivery services only and will be provided a waiver for carry-out alcohol. Montclair Township is now offering free 15-minute parking at meters for pickups.
Murphy said that concern grew over the weekend when officials saw videos posted on social media of packed bars.
“This is not business as usual,” he said.
Murphy, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said the regional approach was needed “amid a lack of federal direction and nationwide standards” in combating the novel coronavirus throughout the tri-state area.
Gatherings will also be limited to no more than 50 people, effective 8 p.m. tonight. Pennsylvania is expected to take similar steps, said Murphy.
All town parks and town-run recreational facilities will be closed through March 31. Police will be motoring those facilities, officials said. Essex County also closed all parks, play areas and dog parks. State parks will remain open, said Murphy.
"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. 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,"said Murphy.
Ages of the 178 New Jersey residents who have tested positive now range from 5 to 93. Eighty percent are experiencing mild to moderate systems, said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. Two New Jersey residents have died thus far.
The number of positive tests in Essex County jumped from 11 on Sunday to 20 on Monday. The county was not able to provide specific towns for the new cases. Of the 11 cases announced through Sunday, three were Montclair residents, Bloomfield, Millburn, and Nutley had two residents each, and Maplewood and Newark had one resident each.
According to state officials, 13 of New Jersey’s 21 counties have had at least one positive test as of Monday. Bergen County has been the hardest-hit with 61, 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, Hunterdon County 1.
“Is this the surge we were expecting? We can expect several more weeks of [COVID-19] activity,” Persichilli said.
FEMA testing centers are expected to open this week at Bergen Community College and at the PNC Arts Center in Monmouth County. Officials said that residents would be required to have prescriptions from their doctors to be tested and that each center could probably handle about 250 tests a day. The exact date of when testing would begin were not given.
Murphy also announced the deployment of the National Guard, which can be called in by governors during emergencies. Murphy said they could help with traffic control, security, transportation, distribution of food and the conversion of spaces for self-quarantining.