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Coronavirus Latest: Jersey Shore Counties 'Really Need To Open By May 15' To Avoid 'Very Difficult Times,' Stockton Professor Warns

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) -- While announcing another 308 COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy offered a little more reassuring milestone. More than 90,000 New Jerseyans who once tested positive for the coronavirus have now recovered.

The rate of new cases continues on a downward slope, even as testing increases with 122 test sites now open throughout the state.

Coronavirus New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy Extends Public Health Emergency As State's COVID-19 Cases Near 132,000

Still, Murphy says we're not out of the woods by a longshot and on Wednesday, he signed an executive order extending the public health emergency another 30 days.

"All of these numbers are pointing us in the right direction and while they are positive, they still mean that thousands of our fellow New Jerseyans are still in the hospital battling COVID-19. This is why I needed to extend the public health emergency," Murphy said.

The governor still refuses to give a timeline for reopening nonessential businesses.

During Stockton University's 12th annual Jersey Shorecast, which was held virtually Wednesday morning, small business and casino representatives, along with economic experts, said missing all spring business has the 2020 summer season starting off deep in a hole.

"Once we understand what the governor is willing to allow us to do, all these businesses are working behind the scenes to the best they can with protocol and social distancing," said Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce CEO Lori Pepenella.

Coronavirus Jersey Shore: Cape May County Moving Forward With Reopening Plan As Summer Nears

The message to state leaders was don't wait a moment too long to allow shore businesses to reopen.

"Everybody should go to Gov. Murphy and say to him that Atlantic County really needs to open, Atlantic and Cape May Counties really need to open by May 15 to get the economy going. Otherwise, we're going to be in for some very difficult times," Stockton University business professor Michael Busler said.

Responding to questions about reopening small businesses today, Murphy says his reopening commission and the regional council of mid-Atlantic states has it near the top of their list of priorities.

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