New Jersey is on track to enter phase two of its reopening plan on June 15, allowing restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining and retail shops to welcome back customers with certain modifications, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.
The state expects to allow hair salons and barbershops to reopen on June 22, he added. Murphy said gyms and fitness centers will then open "very soon" but did not offer a specific timeline.
"We want our economy back up and running," Murphy told reporters at a news briefing. "We want people to get back out to our downtowns and main streets, to our shops and restaurants and to their places of work, but we will not do that at the cost of the reckless disregard for their health and safety."
Currently, restaurants and nonessential retailers in New Jersey are only allowed to provide curbside service. On June 15, shops will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, he said, and restaurants can only roepen their outdoor dining areas.
Murphy cautioned that people, particularly those with underlying health conditions, should continue to practice physical distancing and safety precautions even as more businesses reopen. He said people should continue to wear a mask and warned that any decisions about reopening are contingent on the health data continuing to decline.
"Just because the calendar says June 15 doesn't mean that everyone should just go back to what they were doing and the way they were doing it pre-Covid," Murphy said. "There is no cure. There is no vaccine. There is no proven therapeutic. The only cure is responsibility. Safety will continue to be our No. 1 priority."
Murphy, like other state officials in the Northeast, has taken a phased approach to gradually reopening sectors of economic and social life. The coronavirus has infected more than 160,900 people across the state, killing at least 11,698 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That means the dense state of roughly 9 million people has one of the worst outbreaks in the world and the second worst in the U.S., behind only its neighbor New York.
In making the announcement to move to phase two, Murphy cited steadily declining Covid-19 hospitalizations, daily deaths and new infections. As the key measures of the outbreak have fallen in recent weeks, Murphy has cautiously eased restrictions. Murphy has reopened parks and beaches, and he increased the limit on outdoor gatherings from 10 to 25.
Last week, Murphy announced that child care centers could reopen June 15, followed by outdoor non-contact sports, which can resume June 22. He also said day camps will be allowed to open on July 6, though all reopened organizations will be bound by certain restrictions.
The announcement comes as parts of New York continue to enter phase one of that state's reopening plan and as the Western New York region could enter phase two as soon as Tuesday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.