(AP) Nonessential businesses, shuttered because of the coronavirus outbreak, will open next week for curbside pickup, as will nonessential construction, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday.
Curbside pickup at businesses -- like retail stores -- and nonessential construction can start at 6 a.m. Monday under an executive order Murphy said he will sign.
The state's COVID-19 trends are headed in the right direction, Murphy said, leading him to relax the nearly two-month-old business shutdown: Over the past two weeks:
● Newly hospitalized people are down 28 percent
● Patients in hospitals are down 34 percent
● People in intensive care and on ventilators are down about 30 percent
Still the state has higher hospitalization rates, positive cases, and deaths per 100,000 people than any other state right now, Murphy said.
Murphy has been under increasing pressure, including from fellow Democrats in the Legislature, to restart businesses, and the state Treasury reported Wednesday April revenue collections were down 60 percent compared with last year.
But Murphy said it was the declining figures and not the bleeding state budget that led him to reopen some businesses.
"We want to be quick, but we've got to be right,'' he said.
He added: "This is a step in a positive direction for all those retailers who were deemed to be nonessential. I think it's a responsible one. We just don't want people congregating. I just don't know how else to say it.''
Gatherings by vehicle, as long as people keep social distanced, along with drive-in movies and church services are permitted, Murphy said Wednesday, clarifying his March stay-at-home executive order.
The state reported 1.028 new positive cases overnight, with 197 new fatalities in the same time period, bringing the death toll to 9,702, the first-term Democratic governor said.
Tom Bracken, the head of the state Chamber of Commerce said it's too early to know whether the governor's timing was right. He called the reopening of some business a "step in the right direction.''
"He's the CEO of New Jersey, and he has made a decision on what will drive openings based on the data. I think anybody could disagree or agree with what he's done," Bracken said. "I think the real test of that will be how quickly we get up and running, how quickly the plan that's being worked on now will be implemented and how quickly we can get back to some sense of normal."
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.
A look at other developments:
The state treasury said revenue collections in April were down 60 percent compared with April 2019.
Total tax collections were $2.3 billion, down an "unprecedented" $3.5 billion, the treasury said in a statement.
For the year, total collections are down about 8 percent. That's because before the COVID-19 outbreak, collections were running ahead of last year, the treasury said.
Murphy and lawmakers bumped the state budget deadline to Sept. 30, from June 30. Murphy hasn't detailed how he would close budget holes, but has repeatedly called for direct aide to the state from the federal government.
The state budget finances government and public pensions, but also doles out billions of dollars to local school districts, which helps take pressure of locally levied property taxes, along with dozens of other programs.
New Jersey now has nearly 20 reported patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome, a mysterious condition that affects children and is believed to be related to COVID-19.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the state received reports of seven cases since Tuesday, bringing the total to 18. Those affected are between three and 18 years old and live mostly in the northern and central regions of the state. Four have tested positive for COVID-19, Persichilli said, though it wasn't clear how many of the 18 have been tested.
The syndrome affects blood vessels and organs and has symptoms similar to Kawasaki syndrome and toxic shock, and is marked by persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting. Experts say it can appear weeks after a child has recovered from COVID-19, often without being diagnosed.
Decisions on beaches reopening, elective surgeries returning and the July 7 primary possibly becoming mail-only are likely to come this week as well, Murphy said.
Murphy said he's been talking to officials in beach towns and counties up and own the state's coast and expects an announcement this week. Elective surgeries have also been barred during the outbreak, and their return could be addressed this week, he added.
The primary, which had already been pushed back from June 2 to July 7, could be mail-only, but Murphy didn't specify except to say more decisions could come this week.
"This is a step in a positive direction for all those retailers who were deemed to be nonessential. I think it's a responsible one. We just don't want people congregating. I just don't know how else to say it.'' --Gov. Phil Murphy