Virus Outbreak New Jersey Prep

Gov. Phil Murphy

Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday signed an executive order requiring the state’s 9 million residents to “quite simply, stay at home,” canceling all gatherings, weddings, parties, etc., and closing additional businesses effective 9 p.m. Saturday.

“This decision is not an easy one, and it pains me that important life moments will be not celebrated in the way we are accustomed to,” Murphy said. “I know this will be disappointing to many residents, but my singular goal, our singular goal, not to mention, frankly, my job, is to make sure we get through this emergency so that you can safely gather with family and friends later and enjoy many more birthdays and weddings in the years to come.”

He said the previous 8 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew is “now 24 hours.”

“We don’t want you out (on the roads),” he said. “Period.”

Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the State Police, said the penalty for being out on nonessential business will be “predominantly a disorderly conduct charge.”

Residents are allowed to go outside for exercise but encouraged to maintain their distance from others.

But Murphy urged second-home owners to remain at their primary residences.

“There’s absolutely no excuse for a party on the beach,” he said.

Before his live briefing Saturday, Murphy mandated the indefinite closing of municipal, county and state public libraries. The closing extends to libraries and computer labs at public and private higher education institutions.

“I know libraries are a critical part of the fabric of our communities,” Murphy tweeted, “but we must slow the spread of #COVID19.”

UPDATED TOTALS

Murphy announced five more deaths due to COVID-19 in the state, raising the total to 16. The state’s total number of cases broke four digits to 1,327.

Locally, New Jersey is reporting four cases in Atlantic County, two in Cape May County and one in Cumberland County. Salem County is the lone county to report none.

He also announced that since 8 a.m. Friday, more than 1,000 people had been tested.

“The increase in the positive test results is completely expected,” Murphy said. “The numbers will continue to grow significantly. There’s just no other way around that.”

MORE BUSINESSES CLOSE

As of 9 p.m. Saturday, all nonessential businesses were to close. Exemptions were made for grocery stores, farmer’s markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores; pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries; medical supply stores; gas stations; convenience stores; ancillary stores within health care facilities; hardware and home improvement stores; banks and other financial institutions; laundromats and dry-cleaning services; stores that principally sell supplies for children under 5; pet stores; liquor stores; car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics; printing and office supply shops; and mail and delivery stores.

All businesses should guide employees to work from home if they can, per Murphy.

If a business cannot operate with employees working from home, it is encouraged to give each employee a letter indicating the employee works in an industry permitted to continue operations.

Construction projects underway are allowed to continue.

In a statement, Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, backed the governor’s actions.

“We are asking our business community to take a deep breath before reacting, as we all take the time to review the language and practical application of the governor’s executive order,” Siekerka said.

NEW CASE IN CAPE

Cape May County on Saturday announced a third positive case of COVID-19.

The new case is a 62-year-old county woman who is at home recovering, the county said in a news release.

The county previously reported two other cases: a 30-year-old man visiting from New York City, not counted toward the state Health Department’s tally for the county, and a 32-year-old man who is isolated at home and recovering.

MEANWHILE, ON THE BOARDWALK

Ocean City got a grim preview Saturday morning of what was on the horizon.

Though a slight chill with some rain likely kept some people indoors, the normally packed Boardwalk was dominated by runners and cyclists. Nearly every shop was closed, and walkers approached for questioning made sure to keep their distance.

Michael McCloskey, of Egg Harbor Township, was walking the Boardwalk to stay active since he can’t go to Somers Point’s Snap Fitness. While he’s concerned about how his daily life could change with the state increasing restrictions, he thinks it’s necessary.

“Until it’s over, sometimes you gotta bite the bullet to get it over,” said McCloskey, 58.

A plumbing contractor, McCloskey can continue working regardless of any restrictions in place.

Others, like Mimi Yim at Steel’s Fudge, may not be so lucky. Steel’s was one of the only shops open on the Boardwalk on Saturday morning. To the left and right of Steel’s were nothing but closed doors and COVID-19 signs.

If the state’s stay-home orders last any longer than a few weeks, Yim feels her livelihood could be in danger.

“A few months, I’m going to be worried about,” said Yim, 67. “But a few weeks, I probably shouldn’t be so worried about.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7210

AAustin@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressAustin

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