BY GEORGE N. SALIBA, MANAGING EDITOR ON APR 27, 2020
Gov. Phil Murphy today unveiled a six-principle plan for reopening New Jersey’s economy titled “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health,” although he also said that the state’s “stay-at-home” executive order would remain in effect until further notice.
“Because of the work of our New Jersey family, we can announce today a vision to put our state and our people on the road to recovery,” Murphy announced at today’s COVID-19 press conference. “However, there is still much more work to do.”
He added, “If we let up even one bit with our aggressive social distancing measures too soon – even one day too soon – we can easily see ourselves skidding off this road.”
Of the reopening plan, he said an overarching principle is that “public health creates economic health,” later adding that the plan’s first step is to ensure sustained, 14-day reductions in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations – and that hospitals will also need to cease functioning in crisis modes.
Murphy separately announced that there are 1,801 intensive care cases now, a 9% decrease from week ago – and that 1,303 ventilators are in use, marking a related 14% decrease since last Monday.
Officials have long called for increased coronavirus testing capacity, and the reopening plan’s second principle is to “at least double current diagnostic testing capacity” and also “prioritize testing for healthcare workers, essential personnel, and vulnerable populations.” Other steps included, in part, forging various partnerships with colleges/universities and laboratories, for example, and also ensuring that patients with COVID-19 are assigned healthcare providers.
Contact tracing is yet another reopening component that will need coordination between state and local health officials, and require between 1,300 to more than 7,000 people in the effort, Murphy said.
He added, however, “We are also actively engaging a number of technology companies in a search for innovative solutions that can assist in this massive undertaking, and not only make the work of human contact tracers more efficient, but perhaps mean that we need fewer of them.”
Locating financially complimentary/safe places for people to quarantine is an additional reopening principle component.
Murphy said that tomorrow (Tuesday), he will announce a Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission, which he described as a “group as diverse as it is talented. [It consists of] economists, academics, business leaders, labor leaders, and healthcare experts among them – with local, national and global experience and knowledge.”
Murphy explained, “It will be their task to balance multiple, competing needs to ensure we arrive at equitable decisions that work for every community in our state. And I will ask them to help us and our businesses leverage any and all available federal funds and programs to support our recovery.”
He also said, “I will ask the commission to give the highest priority for reopening, using a clear standard of essential and safe, beginning with businesses, industries and activities which are not only essential to our economy, but which provide the lowest risk of disease transmission.”
Then, Murphy said, “We can move up the matrix, bringing more businesses and activities online until we achieve a fully-functioning and open economy.”
In broad terms, Murphy said requiring face coverings in various settings will likely continue, and that work-from-home directives “for employees who do not need to report to a physical location” will likely be “what I think we will be living with for the forseeable future.”
Resiliency for the future is an additional reopening principle, including but not limited to creating a state stockpile of personal protective equipment and ventilators, and ensuring that hospitals have their own inventories as well.
Announcing his overall desire to see robust economic activity in the state, Murphy said, “We will move as quickly as we can, but as safely as we must.”