NJ businesses, governor’s challenger press Murphy to reopen more
As neighboring states announce restrictions being rolled back further if not all the way, businesses and political opponents of Gov. Phil Murphy have voiced impatience with what they view as New Jersey’s more vague, cautious approach heading into May.
More than 100 business associations on Tuesday sent an open letter to the governor, asking for a comprehensive reopening plan with specific benchmarks and dates.
“After over a year of the pandemic restrictions, businesses continue to reel: the number of small businesses open as of March 22 was down 38.4% relative to January 2020,” according to the New Jersey Business Coalition in its letter.
In addition to asking for transparency and predictability, the coalition also asked for Murphy to go through the collection of executive orders issued during the health crisis and “clean up” outdated requirements to avoid conflicting directives.
Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli also released a general call for reopening, rehashing the impact that the pandemic has had on businesses and students, in particular.
While noting that school district reopening plans remain a local decision, Ciattarelli also blasted Murphy for “closing schools” this long and said he should require schools to reopen for full-time, in-person learning in the fall.
The governor previously has said that all schools would be expected to return to classrooms for the new school year, and repeated that message again this week.
“I know for sure, as I've said this, we're back in business in September, Monday through Friday for educators, kids, everybody in as close to a normal school year as possible,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at Wednesday’s state briefing, when asked again about a return to classrooms for all.
As of Monday, 186 schools or districts reported offering all in-person instruction. Another 526 schools or districts reported being on a hybrid schedule, 69 school districts reported being all-remote and 30 districts or schools reported being on a combination of those forms of instruction.
Newark and Camden were among districts that launched hybrid instruction for at least some young students this week, for the first time since more than a year ago.
“The stress is overwhelming for everybody; the educators, the kids, the parents, anybody associated with our educational communities and all that goes with it. We've talked about learning loss, mental health impact, pure physical health concerns, et cetera,”
At the same briefing Wednesday, Murphy said that a timeline for more rolled back pandemic protocols would be made available next week, “early to mid-week.”
The most recent rollback was a month ago, when indoor capacity was raised to 50% at restaurants and other businesses - an increase from 35% capacity in early February.
Bar-side seating still remains off-limits, which Ciattarelli said should be removed.
The leading Republican candidate heading into the June primary for the governor’s race also said that Murphy should end his own “emergency powers immediately and allow for the legislature to reassert its constitutional and equal role in our government.”
The most recent extension of the state of emergency signed by Murphy on April 15 expires in 30 days, by May 15.
That’s the date that Ciattarelli said all indoor and outdoor gathering limits should be removed by.
The Republican also said “indoor mask requirements would continue in the short term,” but said they should be eased or eliminated as vaccination rates rise.
Connecticut’s governor has announced that all indoor and outdoor business restrictions would be lifted as of May 19, with the exception of a requirement for indoor mask wearing in public. That move was based upon “sufficiently low rates of infections and increasing vaccination rates.”
Pennsylvania's renewed state of emergency due to the pandemic also is slated to expire, unless renewed, by May 19.