TRENTON, NJ – Amid the pandemic, New Jersey’s shut down of non-essential businesses resulted in over a million unemployment claims. Today, Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement will put some of the claimants back to work as non-essential construction resumes. Non-essential retail stores may also begin offering curbside pickup. And in a turnaround  since New Jersey State Police Superintendent Cpl. Patrick Callahan issued in a letter to the state Department of Education and school districts across the state on Saturday effectively banning any and all in person graduation ceremonies,.Murphy Wednesday approved  car gatherings for graduation, offering some glimmer of hope to the Class of 2020, “Drive-thru and drive-in events will now be permissible under social distancing guidelines,” said the Jersey governor. “We are stating that gatherings of vehicles such as drive-in movies or religious services are not a violation of my order prohibiting mass gatherings with certain limitations.”

Murphy’s order becomes effective Monday, May 18 at 6 am and is intended as a step in reopening the state’s economy. In April, the state itself lost 60 percent in revenue.

“The data shows us that we are ready for this step,” said Murphy. “All of the important metrics we needed to see fall into place have been doing so.”

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Trends since the peak and over the last two weeks show that both new and total hospitalizations are down substantially. Additionally, the numbers of patients in ICUs and ventilators have reduced since the peak. Not only are there less reports of positive COVID--19 cases, the death rate has decreased by more than one third.

Patrons of retail stores will be able to order items online or by telephone. Pick up will be available curbside with rules designed to limit person-to-person contact.  No one other than store employees will be permitted in the stores designated as non-essential. Customers are expected to wait in their vehicles for curbside delivery.

When non-essential construction resumes on Monday, businesses are expected to follow guidelines imposed by the executive order.  This includes following social distancing protocol, which may be accomplished by staggering work hours and breaks.

 Murphy also called upon contractors to ensure safety and sanitation procedures are in place. This includes requirements for face coverings and restrictions concerning non-essential visitors to worksites.

Murphy announced that he and Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli are also working on steps permitting hospitals to schedule elective surgeries.

“We are moving slowly and deliberately because any misstep risks further outbreaks,” Murphy stated. “When public health tells us it is safe to remove a restriction, we will remove it.”

Either tomorrow or Friday, Murphy will announce plans related to opening the beaches in time for Memorial Day. Guidelines related to municipal pools and private swim clubs will also be released at that time.

After yesterday’s announcement that the state planned to hire contact tracers, over 21,000 completed online documentation to express their interest.  Contact tracers will follow up by phone or technology with everyone who tests positive for COVID-19. In cases involving children, they may need to meet in person.

Yesterday, eleven children were hospitalized due to an inflammatory syndrome that medical experts say resembles toxic shock or Kawasaki disease. Four of those children tested positive for COVID-19. Today, seven more children were diagnosed with the same mysterious condition. The children range in age from 3 to 18.

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