Murphy orders all schools, non-essential businesses closed in New Jersey as state total now at 178

By KYW Newsradio 1060

UPDATED: 8:30 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday afternoon that an additional 80 residents have tested positive, bringing the state total to 178. 

Monday evening, Murphy announced the state now has its third coronavirus-related death — a male in his 90s who was being treated at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Burlington County has five presumptive positive cases, while Camden County has three cases. 

The majority of the cases are in Bergen County, with 61 presumptive positive cases. No cases have been reported in Gloucester, Atlantic, Cape May, Salem or Cumberland counties.

This came after Murphy announced earlier in the day that all public, private and parochial schools, pre-K through grade 12, and all colleges and universities will close on Wednesday, March 18, until health officials deem in-person classes to be safe.

In a series of tweets Monday, Murphy recapped all of the recent orders meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in New Jersey.

To slow the spread of #COVID19, I'm ordering:•Closure of ALL pre-K, K-12 schools, higher ed insts. beginning 3/18•Closure of ALL casinos, racetracks, theaters, gyms•Closure of ALL non-essential retail, recreational, & entertainment bizs after 8pm•Banning gatherings of 50+

— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 16, 2020

Murphy announced Monday morning along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, that all bars and restaurants in the state will close for dine-in service starting at 8 p.m. Monday. After that time, those businesses can offer only takeout and delivery services until further notice. The same restrictions apply to those two states. 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the same closure on Sunday.

Also starting Monday night, Murphy said, all non-essential and non-emergency travel in the state is "strongly discouraged" between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The governor emphasized this is not a curfew, just a strong suggestion.

"We want everyone to be home – and not out," the governor said.

Businesses deemed necessary for the public’s health, safety and welfare, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices and gas stations, will be allowed to stay open past 8 p.m. They are also subject to social distancing guidelines.

However, said Murphy, all movie theaters, gyms, casinos, and racetracks will close entirely at 8 p.m. Monday until health officials deem them safe to reopen. 

Online gaming will continue, he said.

And effective Monday, all other non-essential retail, recreational and entertainment businesses are ordered to close after 8 p.m. Murphy said these businesses may remain open during daytime hours if they limit their occupancy to fewer that 50 people at a time, in observation of the CDC's latest social distancing guidelines.

Murphy ordered the cancelation of all gatherings of over 50 individuals effective 8 p.m. Monday.

"We do not take any of the steps we’ve announced today lightly. We know that these will impact residents and families, communities, and businesses. But our paramount concern is to #FlattenTheCurve — these steps will ensure we do not overload our health care system," he said on Twitter.

The governor ordered an activation of the New Jersey National Guard. Their role is still to be determined, although it’s expected they’ll provide backup services where needed.

New Jersey's Assembly is set to vote on more than two dozen bills aimed at confronting the coronavirus outbreak. The Democrat-led chamber has scheduled committee and floor votes on Monday on 25 measures, including one that sets aside $20 million to the Education Department for cleaning schools and one that requires districts to offer meals or meal vouchers to students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during school.

Murphy said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has asked New Jersey to serve as one of 12 states nationwide to assist in ramped up testing for the virus. 

A FEMA response team is enroute to set that up. 

It’s expected testing will be centered in hot spots in Bergen and Monmouth counties. State officials say most of the testing is being done, at this point, by private entities.

He also had this request for people who do not take the state’s actions to control the outbreak seriously.

“I’m begging you. Trust us. Believe. This is real and if it turns out it isn’t, it’s on me. Believe this and do what you need to do and do what you’re being asked to do,” Murphy said.


KYW Newsradio's David Madden and Eric Walter, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.