TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey trails far behind the rest of America when it comes to reopening businesses, including restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, barbers, nail salons and hair salons, but it leads the nation when it comes to rate of infection, rate of death and deaths per capita. Those dueling facts fuel the fire for opponents of Governor Phil Murphy who claim his prolonged closures didn’t help save lives but helped to kill the state’s economy. Hundreds, if not thousands of businesses have shut their doors in New Jersey for good. Many once-thriving businesses are now struggling and state legislators want to know what the criteria to allow those businesses to reopen at full capacity are.
Murphy is keeping his formula a secret as if it was the secret formula for Coca Cola or KFC.
Monmouth County Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso wants answers, but she’s not getting them. She asked about the Governor’s new reopening criteria at a budget committee hearing, but received no answers from the Murphy administration.
Initially, the state’s pandemic shutdown was sold to New Jersey as a two-week closure to “soften the curve” to ensure the state’s medical care system wasn’t overloaded. That overload never happened, but no sooner than the curve was softened in May, Governor Phil Murphy pulled “spot positivity rate” or “Rt” as a key indicator for reopening, along with new hospitalizations and the virus’ effective reproduction rate.
With all three of those indicators at pandemic low levels, last week the state announced it is now using ten different indicators, but so far hasn’t shared the 7 newly added indicators with anyone outside of Murphy’s administration.
We’re now seven months removed from the initial pandemic shut down and Governor Phil Murphy keeps moving the goalposts on New Jersey’s struggling industry and businesses. Freshman New Jersey Senator Michael Testa this week said enough is enough and the state legislature needs to act swiftly to stop Murphy’s “power grab” which is disguised as a government concerned about the health and wellbeing of its residents.
For the seventh time since March, Governor Murphy has extended the Public Health Emergency that he has used to justify overbearing executive orders that have caused unimaginable disruption to the lives and livelihoods of our friends and neighbors,” Testa said. “New Jerseyans did exactly what the governor asked back in March. They stayed home and many lost their jobs as employers ordered closed by the governor have shuttered forever. It has to end.”
Testa cried foul against the Murphy administration saying the governor is acting in an authoritative manner, ignoring the legislative branch of government.
“The Legislature has met numerous times since the Public Health Emergency was first declared in March, providing ample opportunity for the Legislature to be consulted and perform oversight as a co-equal branch of government,” Testa said. “Shame on the Democrats who control Trenton for failing to make the governor justify each and every one of the restrictions he placed on New Jerseyans.”
DiMaso and New Jersey Senator Declan O’Scanlon this week called for Murphy to increase the 25% capacity in restaurants to 66% before more businesses close their doors and more New Jersey jobs are lost. O’Scanlon said he received a message from a prominent business owner and restaurateur that he may be forced out of business if things don’t change.
With the weather getting colder and Murphy’s outdoor dining exclusion set to expire in November, restaurant owners are starting to panic about the future.
“This is a prominent restaurateur, his family and restaurant are beloved throughout Monmouth County. This is the last restaurant I’d expect to hear this from. If this individual is this close to the precipice we are in danger of losing them all,” said O’Scanlon. “This is a direct text and if this individual does pull the trigger it will be a shock to Monmouth County and to the State industry.”
“Sorry to bother you I know you’re a busy man but I was wondering if there has been any word on Murphy raising the indoor dining percentage from 25% to your proposed 66% because if that doesn’t happen sooner than later I’m going to have to throw the towel in it’s just not enough to keep the doors open and I would like to give my staff ample notice. I mean looks like we may have this week on our side but that’s probably it. Unfortunately I cannot put outdoor heaters under our canopy due to the obvious fire hazard and after September 30 the road closure which allowed us to put tables out in the street ends… lmk thanks,” the restaurant owner texted to O’Scanlon.
“The evidence is clear from all of our surrounding states – Indoor dining at 50 percent to 100 percent capacity can be done safely. We are way behind our Northeast neighbors virtually all of which have been open far longer than we have and at capacities ranging up to 100 percent. None of them are reporting spikes due to indoor dining.” O’Scanlon continued. “The science isn’t different in New Jersey.”
“We hear every single day from beleaguered restaurant owners who don’t know how to continue like this,” said DiMaso. “The Governor claims we need to see a sustained lack of outbreak, but we’ve already seen that. And even yesterday in his conversation with Dr. Fauci, the Governor was told that we are in a good position to continue the reopening of our economy. These businesses cannot take much more and, frankly, I don’t know what the administration is waiting for anymore.”