Murphy’s Road Map to Reopening New Jersey Doesn’t Show Any End in Sight for Small Business Owners


TRENTON, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy just announced his three phase plan for reopening the Garden State and for most business owners, things aren’t looking good.  According to Murphy’s guidance, unless you’re in the emergency health care, essential construction, manufacturing or essential retail, including grocery stores and pharmacies, expect to stay shut down a bit longer.  Right now, Murphy says we’re in Phase 1 of his roadmap to reopening.  The plan shows three phases, but is lacking a fourth phase, the complete reopening of New Jersey.

As part of his vision, “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health,” Governor Phil Murphy today unveiled a multi-stage approach to execute a responsible and strategic economic restart to put New Jersey on the road back to recovery from COVID-19. The multi-stage blueprint, guided by the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission and complementary Advisory Councils, plans for a methodical and strategic reopening of businesses and activities based on level of disease transmission risk and essential classification.

In stage 1, where we are today, 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.

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In 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.

In stage 3, 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.

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For the indefinite future, Murphy’s plan reiterates 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

New Jersey will move toward subsequent stages based on data that demonstrates 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.
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If public health indicators, safeguarding, or compliance worsen on a sustained basis, New Jersey will be prepared to move back to more restrictive stages as well.

“Through our combined efforts, we have flattened the curve of COVID-19 cases, and we are well-positioned to continue our restart and recovery process,” said Governor Murphy. “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. Additionally, we will be guided by our ability to protect against a new COVID-19 outbreak with expanded testing and contact tracing, and clear social distancing safeguards in place. 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.”