New Jersey's malls will be allowed to reopen starting June 29, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

Staff and patrons will be required to wear masks, and stores will only be allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Sanitation will have to be provided at entrances, and theaters and arcades will remain closed. Mall restaurants will be allowed to offer takeout and outdoor dining.

"Malls are part of New Jersey culture and lore," Murphy said. "We want these businesses to get back up and running safely and responsibly."

The governor announced 442 new cases of COVID-19 for a state total of 168,107. There are 1,268 patients in hospitals, with 319 of those in critical care units. There have been 38 new deaths, to bring the state's total to 12,800. The spot positivity rate is 2.94%. The transmission rate is .75, meaning that each person with the virus is expected to infect .75 other people. As long as the transmission rate is below 1, the disease is on a path to elimination.

Health Secretary Judith Persichilli announced David J. Adinaro as the new deputy commissioner of public health services.

Atlantic County reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 2,642. Of those, 1,332 people have been cleared as recovered. Four more people have died, bringing that total to 190. Three of the four victims were residents of long-term care facilities with preexisting conditions, county officials said.

Cape May County on Thursday announced one new COVID-19 death, a 79-year-old man from Middle Township. Total cases are up to 694, and those listed as off quarantine are up to 530.

Cumberland County is reporting a total of 2,381 cases and 119 deaths.

Visitors to Atlantic City are not allowed to walk from one casino or beach bar to another with an open container of alcohol, unlike in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Nashville, Tennessee and Key West, Florida and other destinations

The full state Assembly on Thursday voted 78-0 to approve legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, John Armato (both D-Atlantic) and Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) to allow alcoholic beverages to be consumed outdoors in certain areas in the Atlantic City Tourism District, such as the beaches and boardwalk.

Under the bill (A-299), the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority would designate “open container areas” in the tourism district where guests could carry and consume open containers of alcoholic beverages.

Assemblymen Mazzeo and Armato and Assemblywoman Murphy released the following joint statement on the bill:

“If a visitor wants to take their beer on the go while on their way to their next destination, they may receive a citation for walking with an open container. This practice is becoming outdated as more cities across the nation are relaxing liquor laws in tourist areas," they said.

The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

Sea Isle City canceled officially this year’s July Fourth Weekend activities, including the All-American Family Night at Excursion Park on July 3, the Junior Olympics competition at Dealy Field on the morning of July 4, and its annual Independence Day Fireworks Show later that night.

The city is also canceling all of our Saturday Night Concerts at the Band Shell, as well as our Family Fun Nights on Monday evenings, and the Baby Parade on July 14. Additionally, it is postponing the 2020 Sara the Turtle Festival in the hopes that it can host that event at a later date.

"Due to the extremely large crowds that those events attract, we don’t feel that we can safely allow them to take place and practice social distancing at the same time – which is very important for everyone’s safety," said Mayor Leonard C. Desiderio in an e-newsletter that was sent out Thursday.

Desiderio does hope the Governor's restrictions will be lessened in the not too distant future so that the city will be able to host its weekly Family Movies Under the Stars at Excursion Park, which tend to attract smaller crowds.

Jobless claims in New Jersey climbed 14% to 26,392 last week, the state Labor Department said Thursday.

Jobless claims had been falling since their peak of 215,000 claims in late March and early April. 

Murphy said 1,061,522 New Jersey residents have claimed unemployment benefits to the tune of $7.2 billion since the pandemic began. Of that, $2.4 billion has been in state funds and $4.8 billion in federal.

“The volume of claims continues to be staggering, well beyond anything the states could have been prepared for,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in a statement.

Twenty-eight percent — or roughly 1.24 million workers — have been sidelined since the outbreak struck in New Jersey in early March, the department said.

New Jersey is beginning to reopen from the outbreak, moving into Stage 2, of three, this week. Gov. Phil Murphy has reported the state's rate of transmission of the virus and the percentage of people testing positive are among the lowest in the country.

Still, the state was a hot spot, with more than 167,000 positive cases and nearly 13,000 deaths.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

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Murphy signed Executive Order 155 to allow limited in-person clinical, lab and hands-on programming at institutions of higher education starting July 1 with enhanced health and safety protocols. Trade and training schools are included in the order. Guidelines have been issued from the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to help institutions restart.

To reopen, institutions have to submit plans to the OSHE detailing how they plan to meet those guidelines at least 14 days before students are intended to return.

“As we move forward in our restart and recovery, these institutions will play a huge role. They are where our future workforce is being created,” Murphy said. “While New Jersey continues to face the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased that we are able to take this step forward for our students and educators.”

The Cape May County Library announced it will begin curbside pickup June 29. Patrons can request items by placing them on hold.

To do so they can call a branch or visit cmclibrary.org/borrow/catalog. They will need their library card or number, as no other forms of identification will be accepted. Patrons also will be required to wear masks when making a pickup.

Returns can be made starting Monday at the drop boxes outside every branch. Returned books will be quarantined 72 hours before being placed back into circulation. 

Atlantic County announced the placement of primary ballot drop boxes for the July 7 election.

Boxes will be in place at the following four locations:

Atlantic County Office Building

1333 Atlantic Ave.

Atlantic City, NJ 08401

Galloway Municipal Hall (Municipal Court side of building)

300 E. Jimmie Leeds Road

Galloway, NJ 08205

Hammonton Municipal Building

100 Central Ave.

Hammonton, NJ 08037;

Egg Harbor Township

Municipal Hall

3515 Bargaintown Road

Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234

The last box will be in place by Monday at the following location:

Buena Vista Township

Municipal Hall

890 Harding Highway

Buena Vista Twp., NJ 08310

All boxes can be used 24 hours a day up until 8 p.m. July 7, and will include bilingual instruction.

Regular U.S. Postal Service mailboxes can also be used, as all primary ballots are postage paid.

The Atlantic County Surrogate’s Office in the Civil Courthouse in Atlantic City has reopened for business. The office is still not open to the public, but customers can call 609-343-2341 to speak with staff 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. A secure drop box is also available in the courthouse lobby, where customers may submit documents, but should call before doing so to alert staff.

For mainland customers, the Surrogate's Office at 5911 Main St. in Mays Landing is also available by calling 609-645-5800. Documents may be submitted through its drop box.

The Township of Hamilton on Thursday announced Cove Beach will reopen Saturday.

The beach will be open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday to Tuesday (closed Wednesday), and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

Season passes are $14, and day passes are $9. Passes are required for everyone 12 and older, and are sold at the entrance booth during beach hours.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many Juneteenth events will go virtual this year.  To join The Virtual Community Story Circle, RSVP to christina.noble@stockton.edu. A Zoom link will be sent upon request.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Yusef Komunyakaa will conduct virtual reading Friday. RSVP to Murphy Writing of Stockton University on Facebook. Visit stockton.edu/murphywriting or call 609-626-3594.

The virtual opening of the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May can be seen at 3 p.m. Friday at facebook.com/harriettubmanmuseum.

Epoch Creation's Juneteenth Celebrate Freedom event Friday can be seen from noon to 12:30 p.m. at facebook.com/epoch-creation-109381274146252/?tn-str=k*F.

Zac Spencer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7239

CFairfield@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPress_CJ

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