Governor okays more recreational activities; Morris County Chamber presses for swifter re-openings; latest pandemic totals

The owner of the Momique boutique in Morris Plains announces it's ceasing operations in June, an economic victim the pandemic.
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Batting cages, golf- and archery ranges, horseback riding, private tennis clubs and community gardens can reopen on May 22, 2020, per an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy, who on Monday released a “methodical and strategic” three-stage plan to reopen the Garden State now that the coronavirus curve has been flattened.

Gov. Phil Murphy gives update on plans to reopen New Jersey businesses, May 18, 2020. Pool photo by Jose Moreno / Philadelphia Inquirer

“Our multi-stage approach uses science, data, and facts to determine which businesses and activities can reopen according to their risk level and challenges they face to safeguard public health,” Murphy said in a statement, citing expanded testing, contact tracing and social distancing safeguards as keys to the recovery.

“We are currently in Stage 1, and we will aim to move through each stage quickly, but also judiciously, with the public health of our communities and all New Jerseyans in mind.

“We are also counting on all New Jerseyans to continue keeping themselves and their neighbors safe by wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, and limiting gatherings,” Murphy said.

A task force of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce released recommendations of its own, urging a swifter reopening of businesses, based on a risk-evaluation system similar to the governor’s.

While applauding Murphy’s efforts to protect public health, state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) said “many businesses… are out of time. I’ve sadly heard from businesses who are at their breaking point, while others are just days or a few short weeks from closing for good.”

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‘Coronavirus By the Numbers’

The chamber’s task force highlighted Momique, a maternity boutique in Morris Plains that announced it’s folding after two years. Owner Amanda Veinott said 2020 looked like a breakout year–until the outbreak of COVID-19.

Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.), Oct. 28, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“The pandemic has fundamentally altered how customers interact with businesses, and left us no realistic way to operate on 25 percent of our revenues,” Veinott said in a statement. The shop will close next month, she announced on her Facebook page.

About 80 percent of Morris County businesses are at minimal risk of spreading COVID, according to task force chairman Bruce Groves, a certified industrial hygienist and CEO of Emilcott & Associates, an environmental health and safety firm.

Cases of COVID-19 peaked in northern New Jersey on April 14, and they have been trending steadily downward.

GOV. MURPHY’S PLAN

Gov. Murphy’s office said his approach, reflecting advice from a council of healthcare, industry and civic leaders, looks like this:

STAGE 1  (Where we are now.)

Restrictions relaxed on low-risk activities if appropriately safeguarded.

Phased-in businesses may include:

  • Non-essential, but easiest to safeguard, work activities at physical locations if they meet safeguarding and modification guidelines. For example, non-essential construction with protections.
  • Some non-essential retail may open with significant modifications. For example, curbside pickup.
  • All workers who can work from home continue to work from home even if their industry is reopening. For example, an office manager for a construction company.
Phased-in activities include State and county parks, non-essential construction, curbside retail, drive-in activities, beaches, and elective surgeries.
STAGE 2
Restrictions are relaxed on additional activities that can be easily safeguarded.
Phased-in businesses may include:
  • More work activities are allowed at physical locations only if they adhere to safeguarding and modification guidelines. For example, work activities to be phased-in over the course of Stage 2 may include expanded retail, safeguarded restaurants with outdoor seating, limited personal care, and possibly indoor dining, museums, and libraries, all with significantly reduced capacity.
  • All workers who can work from home continue to work from home. For example, a buying manager for restaurants.
  • Some personal care services may be provided on a limited basis.
STAGE 3
Restrictions are relaxed on most activities with significant safeguarding.
Phased-in businesses include:
  • More work activities, including in-person meetings, are allowed at physical locations only if they can adhere to safeguarding guidelines and modifications. For example, work activities to be phased-in over the course of Stage 3 may include expanded dining, critical in-office work, limited entertainment, expanded personal care, and bars with limited capacity.
  • All workers who can work from home continue to work from home. For example, accounting office workers.
  • Personal care services may be provided on a more extended basis.
Across all stages, these precautions apply:
  • Work that can be done from home should continue to be done from home.
  • Clinically high-risk individuals who can stay at home should continue to do so.
  • All residents and businesses should follow state and federal safeguarding guidelines:
    • Wash hands
    • Wear masks in public
    • Respect social distancing
    • Minimize gatherings
    • Disinfect workplace and businesses
    • Minimize gatherings
    • No mass gatherings
The governor said New Jersey will move toward subsequent stages based on data showing improvements in public health and the capacity to safeguard the public, including:
  • Sustained improvements in public health indicators, including new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, individuals in intensive care, and ventilator use.
  • Substantial increase in testing and contact tracing capacity.
  • Sufficient resilience in New Jersey’s health care system to include adequate bed capacity, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and workforce.
  • Widespread safeguarding of workplaces.
  • Widespread safeguarding and capacity of child care, schools, and transit.
  • Continued public compliance.

Murphy said the state is prepared to reverse these stages, and reimpose restrictions, if “public health indicators, safeguarding, or compliance worsen on a sustained basis.”

Gov. Murphy’s recovery plan, May 18, 2020.
MORRIS CHAMBER RECOMMENDATIONS

The Morris Chamber’s task force has assigned risk ratings of 1 to 4  (safest / greatest risk) to more than 300 types of businesses, as designated by the North American Industry Classification System.

These risk assessments were developed by a “team of industrial hygienists, toxicologists, and other industry and governmental occupational health professionals” from New Jersey and Wisconsin, to guide businesses as they prepare to reopen, the task force said.

Two risk scores are given to each business category:  One score just for workers, another that includes customers. Proximity of workers and customers and duration of exposure are factors, according to the task force.

Under this system, an automotive parts store gets a risk score of 1 for workers, and 2 when customers are part of the equation.  Liquor stores are rated 2 for worker risk and 3 with customers.

From the task force executive summary:

  •  80 percent of industries have either a minimal (70 percent) or moderate (10 percent) risk score and can easily apply mitigation procedures to get back to work quickly.
  • 15 percent of the remaining industries and organizations are classified as a significant risk and will need to do more to ensure they open safely. Some businesses with significant risk (e.g. Grocery, Liquor, Big Box Stores) have already been operating throughout the pandemic, demonstrating it is possible to operate while continuing to flatten the curve.
  •  The remaining 5 percent of businesses and organizations classified as high risk are dominated by Healthcare organizations that expect to come into contact with people ill with COVID-19. They will operate safely by using medical-grade mitigation procedures to protect their employees.

“This plan provides a scientific Risk Management approach developed and accepted by Occupational Health and Safety professionals to guide businesses and organizations to get back to work now. Providing our community with an achievable plan allows everyone the opportunity to participate in opening our economy safely. We believe this will also have a positive impact on the adverse effects the shutdown has had on mental health,” states the task force.

Groves is joined on the task force by Joanie White-Wagoner, president & CEO of MRN Healthcare Management Incorporated; and Deborah Barsotti,  former director of toxicology at the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Morris County Chamber of Commerce task force recommendations on reopening area businesses, May 18, 2020.

They head a 25-member committee that includes small business owners, grocery chains and car dealers, representatives of the County College of Morris and the Somerset Patriots baseball team, attorney Alan Zakin, state Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25th Dist.) and Morris Freeholder John Krickus.

“At the heart of this issue is fairness,” Morris Chamber Vice President Mike Stanzilis said in a statement, contending it’s unfair for big box stores such as Walmart to remain open while Main Street shops are struggling.

“While curbside pickup is a start for all retailers, the survival of our downtowns and small businesses depends on reopening safely immediately, which is what this plan outlines,” he said.

Read the Morris Chamber task force presentation.

CORONAVIRUS BY THE NUMBERS:

Through May 18, 2020:

Deaths:

World:  317,695
USA:      90,236
NJ:         10,435
Morris:        569

Confirmed cases:

World: 4,786,672
USA:    1,506,732
NJ:         148,039
Morris County:  6,092
Morristown:         496
Morris Township:  272
Morris Plains:         55

Coronavirus Hospital Census in NJ:

Hospitalizations:

April 14:  8,084
May 17:   3,509

On Ventilators:

April 14:  1,705
May 17:     819  (26 percent of capacity)

Intensive / Critical Care:

April 14: 2,002
May 17:  1,053

Long Term Care Facilities:

Facilities with outbreaks:

NJ:     527
Morris: 41

Coronavirus Cases:

NJ:     28,136
Morris: 1,699

Coronavirus Deaths:

NJ:    5,408
Morris:  429

Unemployment claims:

USA:  36,000,000+
NJ:        930,000 +

 

Sources: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, NJ COVID-19 dashboard, Morris County Office of Health Management, NorthJersey.com, NY Times

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