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Coronavirus Progress: N.J. To Reopen Non-Essential Construction, Allow Retail Curbside Pickup Starting Monday

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- New Jersey's "Road Back" is finally creeping up toward the speed limit.

During his coronavirus pandemic media briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he is signing an executive order that will allow several businesses to resume operations effective Monday morning at 6 a.m., under social distancing guidelines.

They are:

  • Non-essential construction
  • Curbside retail pickup
  • Drive-through and drive-in events
Holding a COVID-19 briefing. WATCH: by New Jersey Office of the Governor on YouTube

The decision was made to allow these businesses to get up and running again because the data on COVID-19 hospitalizations suggests the state has made enough progress to do so safely.

"We've said it many times and we mean it -- data determines dates," Murphy said. "And the data we are seeing gives us confidence that we can begin the careful and responsible restart of our economy to get people back to work and to begin to set the stage for the steps to come."

The governor said New Jersey still bears a significant burden from COVID-19 in other metrics. The state still leads the nation in new cases, patients in hospitals, and new deaths, each per 100,000 residents, which is why social distancing guidelines will be strictly enforced while the aforementioned businesses are open.

"We are without question in the pole position of the American states and that's not a position that we are thrilled to be in, but it is a reality. It reflects the density, it reflects overwhelmingly the were are part of the New York City metro reality, as it relates to this pandemic," Murphy said. "It also tells us that while we have made enormous progress, we're still not in the end zone."

Murphy then addressed each individual business allowed to reopen and explained what workers and customers should expect to see.

At construction sites, work may resume with sensible safeguards in place, including the prevention of overcrowding, requiring face coverings, prohibiting non-essential visitors, staggering work hours and breaks, and ensuring proper sanitation.

"All safety protocols must be clearly posted at the job site, so workers will know their health and safety is priority number one," Murphy said.

MORECoronavirus Numbers Improve In New Jersey As Gov. Murphy Pushes Ahead To Expand Contact Tracing

As for non-essential retail stores, Murphy said, "We can get small businesses back up and running in a manner that continues to protect both workers and shoppers. We are explicitly permitting curbside pickup."

He said no customers will be allowed inside non-essential stores. They will have to continue placing orders in advance.

Despite the limitations, it still came as welcome news to Tegan Ashman, owner of White Oak Home, a gift and furniture shop in Westwood.

"It's my first baby. That's the way I like to describe it," Ashman told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis. "We're hurting, but it's kind of to be expected because, like I said, I have to start over."

But she has found creative ways to keep her home goods business afloat, shifting from 100% in-store sales to now all digital, including using online tools for safe curbside pickup.

"I started using Calendly, which is a scheduling tool that allows me to send a link to customers and they can pick a 30-minute window to come pick up their goods. And once that window is selected, it's blocked out, so it's really forcing customers to social distance appropriately," Ashman said.


On the subject of drive-through or drive-in businesses, like drive-in movie theaters and religious services, Gov. Murphy said all participants must stay in their vehicles, adding if cars are less than six feet apart all windows, sunroofs, and convertible tops must be closed.

The ban on all other gatherings remains in place, Murphy said, adding people should stay at home as much as possible.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Murphy said more steps will be taken in the coming days, but of course it will be contingent on hospitalization numbers continuing to decrease.

He said work is underway to begin the process of bringing back elective surgeries at hospitals, adding he hopes to announce something by the end of the week.

"When public health tells us it's safe to remove a restriction, we will remove it, I promise you, but not a moment before and, I hope, not a moment after," Murphy said. "Again, we want to be quick, but we have to be right. Again, there is no light switch we can flip. We can only slowly raise that dimmer."

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