TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order to shut down bar service and impose a 10 pm curfew on indoor restaurant dining is now in effect. At Thursday’s COVID-19 press conference Murphy explained why he’s taking measures that appeared in the direction of another impending lockdown scenario.
That same Executive Order I spoke to on Monday also direct restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges to close their indoor premises between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. taking effect today. This means that all customers are to be out by 10:00 p.m. I must note that other states and cities are also now following suit, notably New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a 10:00 p.m. closure time yesterday. Connecticut has also instituted a 10:00 p.m. close, and Maryland and San Francisco, among other places, are pulling back on indoor dining.
However, we know that congregating is not necessarily limited to restaurants, and that this is more of a problem in some areas than others. A new peer-reviewed study published this week — and again Judy will get into this in more detail — in the journal Nature concluded that indoor venues like restaurants and gyms accounted for roughly 80% of new infections in the early months of the pandemic. This study was based on mobility data from 98 million cell phones.
Therefore, today, I will be signing an Executive Order giving municipalities and counties the option, it is an option, to regulate the operating hours of non-essential businesses after 8:00 p.m. Municipalities and counties do not have to impose additional operating hours restrictions if they do not wish to do so. As we have been noting, our approach to the second wave is to act surgically within hotspot areas, and that means giving local officials the ability to take actions to prevent localized hotspots from becoming COVID wildfires.
We have received numerous reports that as the night progresses, people begin to congregate, let their guard down and take fewer precautions. Again, we know this is not true everywhere, so we are empowering local officials, elected officials locally, to address unique situations where they feel that an operating hours restriction in the evening would help their efforts to stop the spread of COVID.
However, let me be clear: other municipal or county actions such as restrictions on essential businesses, full business closures, or restrictions on gatherings or capacity that differ from the statewide rules are impermissible and will be invalidated. We simply cannot have a patchwork of rules where certain businesses are entirely shuttered in one town but not the next, by the way, especially in New Jersey, the densest state in America. That would lead to individuals traveling to different communities and potentially further spreading COVID.
We recognize that in many ways, what we are facing today is different from what we faced in the spring, when we were forced to take drastic action statewide to mitigate uncontrolled statewide spread in the face of scarce testing resources, and limited PPE and ventilators and, frankly, Judy and Tina, with limited knowledge of what this virus was, among other critical needs. Today, we have a much stronger testing regime in place and we have a greater ability to effectively mobilize hotspot teams and other resources. By working alongside and through local health and public safety officials, we believe we can have a more effective and efficient means of attacking this virus in the second wave.