Gov. Phil Murphy vowed Friday to implement more restrictions on New Jersey residents within the next 24 hours, including shutting down all “non-essential” businesses in the state, to help fight the coronavirus outbreak as the statewide total hit 890 and is expected to “go into the many thousands.”
“It brings me no joy, but we have no choice. We will, within the next 24 hours, further tighten screws in terms of social distancing,” Murphy said during his daily coronavirus press briefing, without providing any details.
The governor did not explain which businesses would be closed, though it’s likely grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. Murphy said his office is still working out the details “to make sure that we get this right” and an announcement about the details is likely by Saturday.
He also said he’ll likely further reduce the number people allowed at “gatherings of any sort” in the state.
Murphy originally limited public gatherings to 250 people and cut it to 50 people earlier this week, but he said Friday: “I’m not sure if we’re going to be to 10 people or if we’re going to zero.”
“This is tough,” the governor said. “The only way that we’re going to beat this darn virus is, literally, if we stay home.”
But other businesses have so far been allowed to remain open, as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines and close by 8 p.m. It appears that will change Saturday.
In the last 24 hours, other states have imposed sweeping mandates, including one in California for people to stay home except for essential needs and one in New York for non-essential workers to remain at home.
Murphy did not go as far as saying if he will mandate people in New Jersey to “stay at home.”
“To be determined,” he said during a Facebook Live interview with NJ Advance Media later Thursday.
“In many respects, California did something that sounded like it was a lot more significant than we’ve already done,” Murphy said. “Frankly, we’ve probably been as aggressive as any American state. But we’re gonna tighten the screws further.”
Murphy said Friday that New Jersey is “many weeks away from the peak” of the outbreak. The goal, he said, is to cut down on cases as much as possible through social distancing and make sure the state’s health care system isn’t overloaded.
On Thursday night, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order requiring people in the state to remain in their homes, except for walks and exercise and for essential needs, like food and medical care. They can still order delivery from restaurants.
On Friday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was putting his state “on pause,” with only essential businesses staying open and essential workers allowed to commute to their jobs.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered the closure of all but “life-sustaining” businesses.
Coronavirus cases as of Friday, March 20
|New York State||7,845||31|
|New York City||5,151||26|
Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told NJ Advance Media on Friday that New Jersey has reached the point where a similar stay-at-home order is needed.
“The bottom line is: We’re in a situation where we live in an epicenter,” Halkitis said. “New York, New Jersey, Connecticut are so concentrated, we have to do everything in our power to ameliorate contact as much as possible.
“For the most part, people are heeding advice,” he added. “We may have to be more direct.”
Murphy held his press briefing from Bergen Community College in Paramus, where the state’s first government-run testing site opened Friday morning. Thousands of people lined up in cars, and officials started turning away people just after noon.
A similar testing site, at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, is set to open Monday.
Officials said they expect the number of cases to rise in the coming days as testing expands. But Murphy said that will help the state figure out how to further combat the virus.