New Jersey continues to lift restrictions as coronavirus pandemic eases


June 22 will mark the next milestone date for New Jersey residents and business operators as the state continues to rebound from the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy has taken action within the past week to begin lifting restrictions that have been in place since mid-March.

Beginning June 22, barber shops, hair salons, nail salons and tattoo shops will be permitted to reopen, according to a press release from the governor’s office..

In the period to follow, New Jersey will work toward the gradual opening of personal care, gyms and health clubs at reduced capacities. All of these activities will be required to adhere to health and safety guidelines, according to the press release.

Murphy’s restart and recovery plan has been dubbed “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health.” He has empaneled a Restart and Recovery Commission to help guide the state’s reopening.

“As we moved through Stage One of our strategic restart and recovery process, public health data continued to demonstrate our collective success in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Murphy said.

“It is with these favorable metrics, coupled with expanded testing capacity and contact tracing, that we can responsibly enter Stage Two of our multi-stage approach to recovery.

“Our economic restart must instill confidence among our residents and visitors that their safety, and that of their families, is our No. 1 priority.

“I encourage all New Jerseyans to continue their vigilance in keeping themselves and their communities safe by social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently and limiting gatherings,” the governor said.

Phased-in businesses and activities, with adherence to safeguarding and modification guidelines, for Stage Two include outdoor dining (June 15), limited in-person retail (June 15), hair salons, nail salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors (June 22), youth summer programs (July 6), in-person clinical research/labs, limited fitness/gyms, limited in-person government services (i.e., Motor Vehicle Commission), and museums/libraries.

Murphy has asked company executives to allow all workers who can work from home to continue to work from home, according to the press release. He has suggested that clinically high-risk individuals who can stay at home should continue to do so.

The governor said New Jersey will move toward subsequent stages based on data that demonstrates improvements in public health and the capacity to safeguard the public. If public health indicators, safeguarding or compliance worsen on a sustained basis, New Jersey will be prepared to move back to more restrictive stages, according to the press release.

“With more of our businesses reopening, we are no longer requiring New Jerseyans to stay at home, but we are asking you to continue to be responsible and safe,” Murphy said. “These actions will put us even more firmly on our road back and complement the steps we have already taken to begin our restart and recovery.”

Effective immediately, indoor gatherings are limited to 25% of the capacity of the room, but regardless of the room’s capacity, the limit will never be less than 10 or more than 50 people.

All attendees at the gathering must wear a face covering, unless for a medical reason or if the individual is under 2 years old; individuals must remain 6 feet apart at all times; and physical items may not be shared by multiple attendees of the same gathering unless sanitized before and after uses, according to the press release.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people and attendees are required to be 6 feet apart. Individuals should wear a face covering at all times where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Individuals who are in vehicles will not count toward the gathering limit.

Available parking at state parks and forests, and at county and municipal parks, may reopen to their full maximum capacity.

Outdoor swimming pools can open effective at 6 a.m. June 22, provided they comply with standards and policies to be issued by the Department of Health.

Outdoor recreational and entertainment businesses are permitted to reopen immediately, with the exception of amusement parks, water parks and arcades. The recreational and entertainment businesses are required to abide by social distancing protocols.

Public and private social clubs are permitted to reopen their outdoor spaces. A business may operate an amusement game outdoors, such as a game on a boardwalk.

In other news, Murphy announced that the New Jersey Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education will issue updated guidance that will allow school districts and colleges/universities to hold modified in-person graduation ceremonies beginning on July 6.

The guidance will include requirements that ceremonies be held outdoors, adhere to social distancing protocols and observe capacity restrictions in order to protect the health of students and families celebrating these milestones amid the ongoing pandemic, according to a press release.

“I am proud to say our graduates will have the opportunity to join their classmates and families to celebrate graduation,” Murphy said.

“Despite the uncertainty of these times, our students deserve to have their hard work acknowledged and celebrate safely. We have reached a point where we feel confident moving forward and giving our graduates the send-off they have so rightly earned,” he said.

In-person graduation ceremonies must take place on or after July 6 and must take place outdoors. An in-person graduation must adhere to the relevant capacity limitation in place at the time of the ceremony.

Since Murphy made the announcement regarding in-person graduations, administrators in some school districts have said they would proceed with plans to hold virtual graduation ceremonies during June and consider holding in-person graduations after July 6.

As of June 11, the pandemic had claimed the lives of 12,625 residents of New Jersey, according to the governor’s office.