NEWARK, NJ – Gov. Phil Murphy has moved to shut down most businesses, ban social gatherings and require the majority of the state’s 9 million residents to work from home in what amounts to a large - but not complete - statewide lockdown.
Under Executive Order No. 107 – his so-called “Stay At Home Order” – all gatherings of people such as parties, celebrations or other social events are prohibited in Murphy's most sweeping action to promote social distancing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are a few exceptions to the order, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work and engaging in outdoor activities.
The order also calls for the shutdown of all non-essential retail businesses.
Among those on the short list of “essential” businesses are grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations, hardware and home improvement stores, banks, laundromats, pet stores, liquor stores, auto repair shops and mail and delivery stores.
The non-essential business shutdown takes effect at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Owners of other non-essential businesses should instruct employees to work from home.
“There’s not a whole lot more that we could do to be honest with you because we’re basically saying unequivocally `stay at home' unless you’re part of an essential service and we really need you to keep the state functioning and to keep fighting this virus,” Murphy said.
Murphy recognized the impact the Stay At Home Order will have on the economy of the state – where tens of thousands have already applied for unemployment benefits - but said he hopes its long-range effect will be fewer deaths.
State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli confirmed at Saturday afternoon’s press conference five new deaths in the state: A Monmouth County man in his 50s, an Essex man in his 80s, a Bergen man in his 40s, a Morris woman in her 70s and a Bergen man in his 90s.
She announced 442 new positive cases of COVID-19 across the state, bringing the total to 1,327.
The death toll in New Jersey was at 16 on Saturday afternoon.
Police across the state are prepared to enforce the Stay At Home Order.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said police are prepared to issue disorderly conduct charges to those violating the Stay At Home order. And, at the urging of Attorney General Gurbir Grewel, prosecutors are prepared to prosecute cases.
“So, when the governor says we’ll take action, we’re at that point,” Callahan said. “Last week I know I talked about discretion and that being the greatest tool of law enforcement, but I think we’re beyond that now given the measures that we’ve placed.”
The major exemptions to the governor’s order are those who work in the healthcare and medical services, those that work at food banks and services for “low-income” residents, members of law enforcement, members of the media and federal officials.
“Otherwise,” Murphy said, “We want you off the roads.”