Gov. Phil Murphy is lifting the stay-at-home order that has been in place since March 21 when the COVID-19 pandemic was ripping through New Jersey.

Today, June 9, the governor also raised the number of people allowed to gather both indoors and outdoors, and is allowing for certain outdoor activities to reopen, including pools.

The stay-at-home order urged residents not to leave their homes except to run needed errands, go to an essential workplace, or to get exercise.

“We would not be at this point if we had not taken this step,” Murphy said.

The stay-at-home order does not, however, specifically apply to employees going back to work if they have been working from home.

“Just because we’re lifting the stay at home order, doesn’t mean we’re making you go back to the office,” Murphy said. But any office that does open back up to staff will need to be outfitted in a way that allows for social distancing.

The new normal, Murphy said, will likely see many more people working from home than had been in the past.

The limit on indoor gatherings has been raised to 25 percent of a building’s total capacity or 50 people, whichever number is lower. This will allow for increased religious services. However, houses of worship do not need to reopen if they do not feel it is safe to do so. “I fully appreciate that there are faith leaders who do not feel safe reopening their sanctuaries at this time,” Murphy said.

Outdoor gatherings will now be raised from 25 people to 100 people, but an increased limit is permitted for First Amendment-related gatherings, such as protests, and outdoor religious services.

That limit will rise over the next few weeks, to 250 on June 22, and 500 on July 3, just ahead of the date for in-person high school graduation ceremonies permitted after July 6. But school districts planning an outdoor ceremony should plan for a 500-person capacity, Murphy said.

With larger high schools, Murphy said that schools should consider having two graduation sessions, perhaps scheduled at different times during the day.

Montclair High School’s graduating classes are typically just over 500 students.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that at both public town pools and private swim clubs,  capacity will be limited to 50 percent. She recommended instituting a reservation or pass system, or limiting hours. Pool officials should set up markings and signage so that visitors stay six feet apart, patrons should wear cloth face coverings when they are not in the pool and foot coverings should also be worn in shower areas. All staff should be screened upon entry, and staff and patrons should not be at the facility if they show any signs of illness.

Pool toys, including noodles, kick boards and snorkels, will not be permitted.

Most outdoor recreation and entertainment can resume on June 22. However, certain attractions, including amusement parks, water parks and arcades, will not be allowed to reopen yet, due to capacity issues and to multiple people touching the same surfaces.

Murphy clarified that children’s playgrounds will not reopen due to the number of high-touch surfaces.


Economic grants

The COVID-19 outbreak created an economic crisis that has hit businesses owned by women and people of color especially hard, said Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan.

The EDA is making an additional $45 million in small business grants available. Of that amount, $15 million will be reserved for small businesses in Opportunity Zones: areas with large concentrations of low-income neighborhoods.

As of 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Sullivan said the EDA had received 19,500 applications for the total grant funding, and he estimated that the $45 million would be able to generate 16 million grants. 

Today’s numbers

New Jersey officials reported 375 new cases as of Tuesday, June 9, up from the 356 reported on Monday, bringing the state total to 164,796.

The state ‘s death toll is now at 12,303, with 91 new deaths reported today, compared to the 40 on Monday.

The transmission rate for the virus has dropped to 0.64 percent, down from 0.70 percent, and the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests was 3.06 percent as of June 5.

On Monday night, hospitals reported 1,736 hospitalizations down from 1,740 on Sunday. Of those, 510 patients were in critical care, with 373 ventilators in use, compared to 498 critical care patients and 361 ventilators the night before. Hospitals admitted 84 new patients and discharged 80 patients, compared to 94 new admissions and 112 discharges the night before.

This morning, Tuesday, Essex County officials reported 64 new cases and 12 new deaths, compared to only one new case and no new deaths on Monday, bringing the county total to 18,123 cases and 1,718 deaths.

On Tuesday, Montclair Health officials reported one new case, bringing the township total to 429. The number of fatalities remains at 50.