Coronavirus update: Nonessential businesses can reopen in N.J. on Monday

Medical personnel at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey

Medical personnel at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, put on protective gear on March 17, 2020. (Jeff Rhode/Holy Name Medical Center)

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New Jersey reported 1,028 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 141,560.

There are a total of 4,226 hospitalizations with 928 patients on ventilators. This is the fourth consecutive day with ventilator use below 1,000.

Another 197 people died of complications from COVID-19. The state has now lost 9,702 residents to the pandemic.

Nonessential businesses can reopen Monday

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order allowing nonessential construction and nonessential retail shops to operate with curbside pick-up, starting Monday at 6 a.m. Nonessential construction in New Jersey has been closed since March 8 and nonessential businesses since March 21.

At retail businesses, no customers will be allowed inside stores. Construction sites must put safeguards in place to prevent overcrowding, require face coverings, prohibit nonessential visitors, stagger work hours and breaks, and ensure proper sanitation.

Drive-through and drive-in gatherings such as church services are also permissible now under social distancing guidelines, Murphy clarified Wednesday. Participants must remain in their cars, and if vehicles are less than six feet apart, windows and doors must remain closed unless the occupant is in danger. Murphy was asked about these as many schools try to work out alternatives to in-person graduation ceremonies.

While Murphy affirmed that current data shows New Jersey can begin restarting the economy, “there is no light switch we can flip,” he said, noting the reopening will come in stages.

April state revenue declines by 60%

Revenue collections declined by about 60% percent in April, down $3.5 billion from $5.8 to $2.3 billion, as the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic begins to take shape.

“These numbers are a sobering reminder that the COVID-19 impact is not limited to the health of our people but also to the health of our state’s finances,” Murphy said.

Fiscal year to date collections are down $2 billion, a decline of 8.1% from this time last year.

The revenue losses reported Wednesday include two weeks of economic activity in March, prior to the shutdown. However, collections were impacted by the delay of the tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. The Treasury Department expects part of the revenue to be made up in July after the later filing date.

The state’s strict stay-at-home order forced countless businesses to temporarily close their doors and caused more than 1 million residents to apply for unemployment benefits.

A fuller picture of the decline in revenue will be apparent in May, when April collections are reported. Murphy warned that collections will worsen as New Jersey approaches a “fiscal cliff” before the new fiscal year begins on October 1. He said the declining numbers underscore why he’s asking the federal government for additional assistance.

First all-mail ballot in N.J.

The first all mail-in election in the state looks like it will keep Atlantic City’s government the way it is. Voters were asked if they wanted to eliminate the position of mayor and four of the nine city councilmembers. Instead of a mayor, there would be an appointed city manager.

Early reports show the proposal defeated 3-to-1, with 3,275 votes against the proposal and 985 votes for it. Additional ballots will be accepted and counted through Thursday.

Mayor Marty Small declared victory over what he said was an effort by outsiders to change Atlantic City.

One of the big backers of the proposal, Bob McDevitt, president of local 54 of UNITE/HERE, the union that represents casino and tourism workers, conceded defeat.

Though there were no lines at the polls or large gatherings at campaign headquarters, the Vote No campaign hosted a caravan rally, driving through neighborhoods with “Vote No” signs on their cars.

Atlantic City moved to an all mail-in voting system due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the vote comes as the city’s nine casinos are all closed, putting some 27,000 people out of work.

Atlantic City was one of 32 municipalities in New Jersey that held elections by mail Tuesday.

The usual June primary has been delayed to July 7, when Small faces another vote in the Democratic contest. Some leaders have discussed making the July vote all via mail, but Murphy has not made that happen. In New Jersey, anyone can request a mail-in ballot. They don’t have to provide a reason for needing one.

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