SOMERVILLE, NJ - While many stores in downtown Somerville have been forced to close their doors and restaurants are limited to take-out and delivery, construction sites throughout the borough are active, with hundreds of hard hats still able to make a living despite the limitations imposed on the workforce by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Work continues at the Davenport, a five-story apartment building on Davenport Street in the center of the downtown district; Stationhouse Apartments on Veterans Memorial Drive and Somerset Station, a 41-acre mix of townhomes and apartment buildings adjacent to the Somerville Train Station.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order on March 21 ordering non-essential businesses to close, and for those permitted to continue operating, a reduction in the workforce.
Construction workers are permitted to continue showing up at their job sites, according to Murphy's edict.
In part, Executive Order 107 reads:
"To the extent a business or non-profit has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements, the business or non-profit should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.
"Examples of employees who need to be present at their work site in order to perform their job duties include, but are not limited to: law enforcement officers; fire fighters; other first responders; cashiers or store clerks; construction workers; utility workers; repair workers; warehouse workers; lab researchers; IT maintenance workers; janitorial and custodial staff; certain administrative staff.
"The Order continues existing bans on recreational and entertainment businesses, requirements that all restaurants operate by delivery and takeout only, and the directive that all pre-K, elementary, and secondary schools close and all institutions of higher education cease in-person instruction."
"From day one, we've made a commitment to be guided by the facts and take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of New Jersey's nine million residents," Murphy said. "We know the virus spreads through person-to person contact, and the best way to prevent further exposure is to limit our public interactions to only the most essential purposes. This is a time for us all to come together in one mission to 'flatten the curve' and slow -- and eventually halt -- the spread of coronavirus."
In an effort to strengthen the existing social distancing measures in place, the order also prohibits all gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations, or other social events, unless otherwise authorized by the Order. When in public, individuals must practice social distancing and stay at least six feet apart whenever possible, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.
Murphy's Executive Order further directs the closure of all non-essential retail businesses to the public, with the exceptions of:
• Grocery stores, farmer's markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store;
• Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries;
• Medical supply stores;
• Gas stations;
• Convenience stores;
• Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities;
• Hardware and home improvement stores;
• Banks and other financial institutions;
• Laundromats and dry-cleaning services;
• Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years;
• Pet stores;
• Liquor stores;
• Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics;
• Printing and office supply shops;
• Mail and delivery stores;
• Mobile phone retail and repair shops (added 3/24/20);
• Bicycle shops, but only to provide service and repair (added 3/24/20);
• Livestock feed stores (added 3/24/20);
• Nurseries and garden centers (added 3/24/20);
• Farming equipment stores (added 3/24/20).
Nothing in the Order shall limit the provision of health care or medical services; access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; the operations of the media; law enforcement agencies; the operations of the federal government.
Additionally, the order mandates that all businesses or non-profits, wherever practicable, must accommodate their workforce for telework or work-from-home arrangements.
For additional information on COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus and its impact on businesses, please visit the State of New Jersey business portal at https://cv.business.nj.gov.