South Jersey business organizations have been trying hard to get Gov. Phil Murphy to see that the region is different than the COVID hotspot North Jersey shares with New York and deserves its own reopening plan.
More than a month ago, the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce worked with the county’s task force to produce and present to Murphy a “proposal for the safe, thoughtful and progressive reopening” of businesses. The governor said he would consider it, then didn’t and dismissed the urging of legislators and others to take account of regional COVID variations.
A working group at the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce urged a regional strategy tailored to the south’s significantly fewer COVID cases. It suggested dividing the state into north, central, south and shore regions and implementing staggered reopenings in each based on their health conditions and at-risk industries.
The plan suggested the shore region include Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth counties, while the south region would include Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties.
Last week the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce mounted a social media campaign to persuade Murphy to allow the reopening of its attractions. Participants getting the word out were urged to use hashtags such as #ReleasetheFamilyFun, #WePlayitSafeAlltheTime, #SafetywithaSmile and #SaveMySummerJob for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram postings aimed at the governor.
A survey by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber last month showed what’s urgently at stake. Already a quarter of businesses had exhausted their cash on hand and 75% expected to run out of money by now if they couldn’t reopen. Most already had temporarily cut back workers, who at this point are at risk of permanent job losses.
All governors in the nation are executing reopening plans that balance the risks of coronavirus infection rates and lasting economic damage. Effective plans for anything invariably are based on the specific conditions they will address and Murphy’s plan should do so as well.
But so far the former Wall Street financier seems locked into following the lead of neighboring New York, which already had tragic results when New Jersey also required nursing homes to accept COVID patients from hospitals.
Reopening South Jersey on the schedule of North Jersey-New York City rather than its own would serve neither the bodily or financial health of its residents and businesses.