NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy was not overly concerned about crowds or violations of social distancing at New Jersey beaches over the past weekend. While he’d like to see more masks worn, he said things went fairly well.
The governor was asked about photos seen in the media, specifically crowds in Belmar in Monmouth County during his May 18 press conference. He responded that some photos taken by drones showed more masks being worn than in some of the media reports that had been posted.
State Police Superintendent Patrick J. Callahan said that there were no incidents over the weekend of any great significance concerning abuses of guidelines at beaches open in the state.
As the state is moving to its next stage of reopening Gov. Murphy said 40% of human contact happens at work and “this is why we are putting on a premium for work place safeguards that affect you, your co-workers, customers and clients.”
He said 25% of workers can easily work from home and have been doing so. “That is likely to continue,” Murphy added. He said another 35% are in low to moderate contact either with their co-workers or with their customers. He named landscaping, construction and factory workers as being in this category.
Murphy added the hardest nut to crack was the 40% of the workforce that has frequent contact with co-workers and/or customers. “That is a bartender, waiter or waitress in a restaurant and in a particular emphasis to those in that last group are those that work indoors. We do not take this lightly.”
“We fully understand and appreciate the struggle you face in the current climate and we are anticipating that some of the jobs which have been lost over the last two months may not return. We experienced this after the great recession,” the governor added.
“Unlike then, today, we have robust job training and apprenticeship programs in place. We didn’t anticipate a pandemic but we put them in place. They will do us an enormous amount of good. For that 25% roughly at the top, our work force that can work from home you to should expect to do this for the foreseeable future,” the governor said.
Murphy added that until a “proven vaccine is in our midst or until proven therapeutics are widely available, we cannot firmly enter the new normal which eventually awaits us when life again will return to all of our work places and downtowns.”
The governor stressed that there had to be confidence that workers could comfortably go back out and customers felt safe to return as well. He said this is what the state’s Restart and Recovery Commission and Advisory Councils “which knows firsthand our state’s economic center are working on and we will continue to look to the commission for the signals that we are ready to move through each stage.”
“We laid out what the milestone marks were a few weeks ago and this is where these metrics will take us and as we enter each stage we can look at this,” the governor said. He added that businesses and activities would reopen based on their risk level and the challenges they would face to safeguard public health.
“This will not be everyone at once, even within each stage we will phase in our restart which is what we have done. We are comfortably within stage one and there are groupings of steps that will take place in a period of time,” he said.
Gov. Murphy added, “we will step back as we take these steps and see that the data works and we will aim to move through each stage as quickly as we can. We won’t sit on this as the data tells us to move forward but we will move forward with public health firmly in mind and move cautiously as we must.”
Murphy said that at the beginning of the pandemic the state was stuck at stage zero representing the maximum restrictions with locking down “as much as we could and allowing access to essential services in stores. We closed our schools and transitioned our students to remote learning. We prohibited all mass gatherings and asked everyone to simply stay at home.”
“Today we find ourselves in a better place because the steps we took were effective,” Murphy added. “The steps you took, folks, none of us here have the power to push these curves down. Only the nine million of you have that power as you took this responsibility to heart and they have come down.”
Murphy said that steps were now being taken to get more workers back on the job and because of the reopening of parks and beaches and lakes people “can enjoy the natural resources our state has to offer though admittedly a bit differently.”
He added that much of what was expanded upon was leaning toward outdoor activities “because outside activities are safer than inside. None of our moves have been arbitrary. All of them have been driven by data.”
He also noted that the resumption of child care services will soon be vital as workers return to their regular places of work.