NEW JERSEY – Senator Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (R-24) Friday reiterated their call for a regional reopening to the state’s economy and the lifting of restrictions on business in areas with lower COVID-19 transmission numbers.
“We can reopen safely and smartly,” Oroho said. “Respecting appropriate safety protocols should mean you don’t have to sacrifice economic health at the expense of physical health. We should never have been treating them as if they are mutually exclusive. So when restaurants, gyms, stores and service companies tell us they may not be able to survive much longer, these are not idle threats. Every day, more employers are pulling the plug on their lifelong dreams, laying off workers, and closing their doors forever. It shouldn’t be this way.”
In the absence of a statewide reopening, the lawmakers have long advocated for a regional approach that would lift restrictions on towns and counties where the number of positive coronavirus results are low. This week, the state’s business community and the dean of the Rutgers School of Health voiced support for such an approach.
“In our local area, the coronavirus is posing less of a threat at present than commercial and personal bankruptcies, job loss, foreclosures and psychological pressures,” Space said. “We can’t allow our fear of COVID to destroy us financially. When people can’t go to work and they are relying on the government and hand-outs to survive, it takes a devastating toll on them. A responsible regional reopening will allow a level of normalcy to return in localities where virus cases have remained low.”
New Jersey, California and New Mexico are the only states without some form of regional reopening strategy. Indoor dining under regional guidelines has proven successful elsewhere, including neighboring Pennsylvania and New York. The Freeholder Boards of Sussex, Warren, and Hunterdon created an in-depth regional opening plan.
“One size does not fit all when the goals are containing a virus and protecting the economy,” Wirths said. “We’re in a global pandemic, but the virus presents an extremely localized threat. It spreads through close human contact. We have seen some hotspots in the state, but most areas, like here in northwest New Jersey, the spread is minimal. Suffocating restrictions remain in effect, however, hurting our economy. Because of the Governor’s policy, New Jersey residents are spending their dining money in Warwick, New York or Milford, Pennsylvania instead of our instate restaurants. Estimates show that one out of four restaurants are likely to go out of business and the longer this goes on, the worse that number will be.
“If we don’t act now and allow businesses to open and operate safely, the fiscal impact on our state and residents will be even more devastating than frankly it already is,” Wirths said.