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N.J. reveals multi-stage coronavirus reopening plan. We’re in ‘Stage 1,' Murphy says.

SOURCE: Matt Arco and Alex Napoliello, NJ Advance Media for

UPDATED: 5/18/2020

Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday outlined a multi-stage reopening plan for businesses, offices and activities ordered closed to slow the coronavirus outbreak in New Jersey and said the state has entered “Stage 1,” though no timeline for future stages was included.

Murphy, speaking to reporters at his daily coronavirus press conference, said “Stage 1″ allows for relaxed restrictions on low-risk activities, like enjoying parks, beaches and lakefronts, but calls for residents to “stay at home as much as possible.” The five-stage plan includes “Stage 0” when the maximum restrictions of near-lockdown orders were in place, and a final stage he referred to as a “new normal” when a vaccine is widely available.

“We are now able to enjoy all that our state’s natural resources have to offer again — albeit a bit differently,” Murphy said of Stage 1.

According to a graphic provided to explain the steps, Stage 1 asks residents to maintain strict social distancing practices and to “check in virtually with my loved ones.”

Murphy has talked about his broad reopening strategy in the past, but this is the first time he gave clear guidelines on what activities would be grouped together on his roadmap to reopening.

The final “new normal” stage, which is not numbered, is contingent on the availability of a DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:8k1g5vaccine.osed for the coronavirus outbreak.

The next phase, “Stage 2,” will call for a “broader restart of our economy" and allows for “moderate-risk activities restarted with safeguarding.” Stage 2 will also allow restaurants to provide outdoor dining and certain limited personal care businesses to reopen. Stage 2, Murphy said, could also include limited summer camp activities for kids and the reopening of some cultural sites and libraries.

While Murphy did not provide any dates of when the state will transition to each stage, he said “Stage 2” could possibly come in the “coming weeks.”

“I’m sure you’ve noticed, almost everything we have approved at this point are expanded outdoor activities – because the data said we could and best practices note that outside, right now, is safer than inside,” Murphy said. “None of our moves have been arbitrary – all of them have been driven by data.”

“Should the data continue to improve and keep giving us a green light, we will be able to further reduce restrictions on other businesses, including allowing our restaurants to once again welcome diners to outdoor tables – and, potentially, to a limited number of indoor ones, or to more creative business models – and, for some personal care businesses to begin to reopen for their clients,” Murphy said.

It’s not until “Stage 3” that residents will be able to “engage in small social activities with a limited circle of friends and family.”

“We must remain vigilant,” the governor said. “We will not risk lives to a rebound of COVID-19. The protocols that will get us to the new normal – social distancing, proper sanitation and hygiene, face coverings, a strong program of testing and contact tracing, and personal responsibility and compliance – are what will allow us to thrive once we get there.”

The final “new normal” stage, which is not numbered, is contingent on the availability of a vaccine.

“But, until a proven vaccine is widely available, we cannot firmly enter the ‘new normal’ which eventually awaits us, when life will once again return to all our workplaces, downtowns, and main streets,” Murphy said.

On Monday, Murphy also announced he is signing an executive order that allows “some additional outdoor recreational areas and businesses to restart their operations,” including batting cages, golf ranges, shooting and archery ranges and horseback riding. Golfers may also now tee-off in foursomes. Private tennis clubs and community gardens can also reopen, the governor said.

The order takes effect Friday at 6 a.m.

On Wednesday, the governor announced he will allow nonessential retail businesses to offer curbside pickup and nonessential construction to resume on Monday, while also allowing drive-in and drive-through events, such as church services.

On Thursday, Murphy announced beaches, boardwalks, and lakes can be open this summer as long as they follow social-distancing rules restrictions. Beginning next week, elective medical procedures — or non-emergency — surgeries and invasive procedures, both medical and dental, will resume at hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers.

And he said the state may take more steps to reopen in the coming days.

Only New York has more deaths and cases among U.S. states.

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