TRENTON - New Jersey is taking a more measured approach to combatting the second wave of coronavirus by giving towns and counties the power to regulate non-essential business hours.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said Thursday he will sign an executive order to give towns and cities the option to limit hours at non-essential businesses after 8 p.m. Murphy’s decision is a change from the spring when he ordered statewide closures and declined to adopt a regional approach.
The new restrictions go beyond statewide measures announced earlier in the week by Murphy, who ordered bars and restaurants to halt indoor dining between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. beginning Thursday.
"As we have been noting our approach to the second wave is to act surgically within hot spot areas and that means giving local officials the ability to take actions to prevent localized hot spots from becoming COVID wildfires," Murphy said.
Murphy backed up his decision by citing a peer-reviewed study that used data from 98 million cell phones to trace 80% of new infections to indoor businesses such as restaurants and gyms.
While the executive order empowers counties and municipalities to stamp out rising infections, it does not allow the state rules on crowd restrictions and businesses to be bent or changed.
"We simply cannot have a patchwork of rules where certain businesses are entirely shuttered in one town but not the next," Murphy said. "That would lead to individuals traveling to different communities and potentially further spreading COVID."
While restrictions on restaurants, bars and gym are tightening, Murphy emphatically denounced rumors that the state will shut down schools.
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"I must dispel, forcefully, the irresponsible rumor that was spread on Twitter yesterday: We are NOT closing our schools," Murphy said on Twitter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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