New Jersey to enter Stage 2 of reopening plan on June 15 amid COVID-19 pandemic

TRENTON, New Jersey -- New Jersey will be ready to enter Stage 2 of its restart and recovery plan on Monday, June 15 which will see the return of outdoor dining and in-person retail shopping.

"Over the past several weeks, we've been able to take our first steps on our road back because we stayed true to our guiding principles," Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press briefing Monday afternoon.

Murphy said this will be a phased-in restart, with public health as the top priority.

"We will not flick a switch," Murphy said.



Beginning on June 15, outdoor dining at restaurants can begin, as can non-essential in-person retail.

On Monday, June 22, salons and barber shops can reopen.

Then in the period to follow, specific dates to be given, gyms and health clubs will be allowed to reopen.



The governor stresses customers and businesses should adhere to the Department of Health guidance including social distancing and wearing masks.

"Just because the calendar says June 15 doesn't mean that everyone should just go back to what they were doing pre-COVID. Let's use common sense for the common good," Murphy said. "Only a successful Stage 2 can get us to Stage 3."



Nearly 12,000 New Jersey residents have passed away due to COVID-19 and more than 160,000 have tested positive.

"As we open, we know there is a greater chance of transmission of COVID-19. There is no cure. There is no vaccine. There is no proven therapeutic. The only cure is responsibility," Murphy said. "Safety will continue to be our number one priority."

Murphy said the state has seen the stresses on the health care system "significantly lessened." He said key metrics have all dropped meaningfully from the peak six weeks ago.

The governor said the state has ramped-up its testing capabilities and New Jersey has the ability to conduct at least 20,000 tests per day.

"With our increased testing has come an increased focus on contact tracing," Murphy said.

Murphy said New Jersey leads the nation in the number of daily tests per capita.

"A new principle that should guide us as we move forward: common sense for the common good," Murphy said.

New Jersey reported 509 positive cases Monday for a statewide total of 160,918. The state reported 27 new deaths, bringing the total to 11,721.

Murphy had said Atlantic City casinos could potentially reopen with restrictions by the July 4 weekend.

The governor already announced that child day care centers can reopen on June 15, outdoor, non-contact organized sports can resume June 22, and youth day camps can operate beginning July 6, all with restrictions.

A look at other developments:

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NJ TALLIES $200M in EXPENSES RESPONDING TO COVID-19

New Jersey's state government has racked up about $200 million in expenses responding to the COVID-19 crisis over the roughly two months since the first case became know, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The receipts obtained through the state's public records law show $197 million in expenses, with the lion's share stemming from the state's Law and Public Safety Department, which houses the state police. The state Human Services and Health Departments also recorded millions in expenses.
The charges go from as little as about $60 for monthly Zoom meeting service costs to $2.5 million to a medical and surgical supply company, in one case. There are numerous charges from Amazon, the online retailer, as well as thousands of dollars in expenses from various restaurants.

The expenses are just a fraction of the state's nearly $40 billion budget, but come as the state is seeing a dropoff in tax revenue, with a 15.3% unemployment rate. They also dwarf a number of Murphy's proposals from before the outbreak hit: he had sought $80 million to remediate the state's lead drinking water infrastructure, for comparison. Fifty million dollars would have financed an expanded college tuition program Murphy was seeking.

It's not clear how the state will pay for the unplanned expenses, but New Jersey got about $2.4 billion in federal funds through the CARES Act, and Murphy has already petitioned the Democrat-led Legislature to use $600 million of that funding to finance state operations.

An email seeking comment on the expenses was sent to Murphy's office.

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MORE SECTORS OPENING

More sectors of New Jersey's economy will soon be opening up from restrictions stemming from COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.

Horse racing can begin as soon as next weekend, while child-care centers can open on June 15. Organized sports can return a week later, and day camps by July 6, Murphy said during a news conference.

The state's coronavirus outbreak trends are heading in the right direction, the Democratic governor said, leading him to loosen the two-month old stay-at-home order. If trends continue to go in the right direction, Murphy said church and other religious services could resume by June 12, but he stopped short of guaranteeing their reopening.

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that in the coming weeks child care, day camps and youth sports can restart across the state.



The state's beaches were open in time for Memorial Day, and Murphy approved outdoor graduation ceremonies earlier this week.

Businesses deemed nonessential like casinos, gyms, salons and retail are still closed.