When the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, no one had ever been through something like this before. While there were warning signs coming in- some which were, inarguably, ignored by politicians- once the pandemic struck, we were in uncharted territory.
While some states took a lax approach to the pandemic initially- as the number of cases were minimal- states like New York (largely due to New York City) and New Jersey (largely due to its dense population and a chunk of the state having a close proximity to New York City) had to act quickly. Early on in March, New Jersey and New York became largely quarantined, forced to stay home. Businesses that were deemed non-essential were forced to close, schools were forced to close and adapt to remote learning, and almost everyone began to adapt to a new normal of not leaving their homes. Families stopped seeing each other for fear of spreading the virus, friends stopped gathering, and a sense of overall isolation set in.
While numbers in New Jersey and New York have improved, it’s easy to understand why people are itching for a return to normalcy. People want the life they had before, enjoying leisure activities such as bars, restaurants, arcades, movie theaters, etc. However, even though numbers in these states have improved, the pandemic is far from over. In fact, numbers in other states are skyrocketing, and a report from today even claims we could potentially start seeing 100,000 cases a day of the coronavirus.
While New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy took a very cautious approach- that has actually placed New Jersey as one of the few states where coronavirus is considered under control- restaurants were thrown for a loop this week. While Murphy had previously announced that restaurants could open indoor dining at 25% capacity, he changed his tune on that this week. He cited the cases exploding in other areas and now has claimed that indoor dining is prohibited “indefinitely.”
The following are the statistics for the coronavirus today in New Jersey:
- 229 new cases per day, with 3 cases per 100,000 residents. This places New Jersey 47th among the states for this statistic.
- 999 people in the hospital, which is 11 people per 100,000 residents. This still places New Jersey 11th among the states for this statistic.
- 35. Deaths per day, which is a rate of 0.4 per 100,000 residents. This places New Jersey fifth among the states for this statistic.
While in a pandemic erring on the side of caution definitely seems like the appropriate measure, many restaurants are enraged at his decision. Not only are they bothered by the fact that this indefinite postponement will continue to hurt their business- which has already been so badly battered- but they are also annoyed with the amount of notice they received. Specifically, a lot of the complaints that have been made have to do with the fact that Murphy gave less than 72 hours of notice of his change. Many restaurants had already ordered food that they anticipated would be consumed by them now being able to welcome additional customers inside (in addition to their outdoor dining and take out options they’ve already been offering). Now, they are fearful the food will go to waste and this is even more money lost for them. Some have also pointed to the fact that Murphy himself was seen inside a restaurant this weekend (albeit wearing a mask, and it had started to rain).
This draws to question a topic many in New Jersey (and likely outside critics of the state) have been discussing for some time now- and that is what seems to be a level of hypocrisy in how Murphy is managing the coronavirus pandemic.
Let’s examine a multitude of examples:
- Schools remained closed for the duration of the school year but child care centers were allowed to open as of June 15th. Why would centers where children gather be allowed to open during a time when schools remained closed?
- Malls reopened in New Jersey as of June 29th. How are malls- which are indoor spaces- able to be opened with capacity limits, but restaurants are not?
- Barbershops and hair salons were able to open on June 22nd. Barbershops and hair salons have been said to be among the riskiest activities due to the close proximity someone cutting your hair has to be to your face. Why would that be allowed, but indoor dining at a reduced capacity not be?
- As of June 22nd, outdoor gatherings were increased to have 250 people. However, protests that have been ongoing (ones in which Murphy himself has even taken place in) have had figures in the thousands. Evidence has been cited to say that protesters wore masks to protect themselves (which, from a photographic examination, is LARGELY true- but not 100% true across the board). How are crowds that size not unsafe, but crowds over 250 gathering outside for other purposes are?
- Speaking of the protests, many have questioned how protests can take place (especially given the close proximity people are standing to one another), but events like graduations have yet to be able to be taken place? (Of note, as of July 6th, graduations are supposed to be able to begin to take place with modifications, although the date seems somewhat arbitrary choice-wise as the logic behind that being the date seems to be missing).
- Casinos are able to reopen (albeit with restrictions) as of July 2nd, but indoor dining facilities (and drinks now) are prohibited. How can you allow people to be inside a casino gambling, but not allow people to be inside eating? Granted, they are wearing their masks while gambling, but every casino features a hotel many guests will stay in, and they likely are not wearing their masks in their rooms. Thus, if they were sick with coronavirus, they could be letting droplets into the air conditioning system in their rooms, thus still spreading it around.
While these are just a few examples, there are definitely more that people have brought up over the past few months. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you’re on, they are fair questions to ask, as some of them don’t seem to make any sense from a scientific standpoint. The focus on containing coronavirus and minimizing the spread of it obviously should be the number one priority- and, to his credit, Murphy has done a great job at creating policies that seem to have done that- but there are still some things that don’t seem to make sense.
Surely, as with anyone dealing with something that’s never been dealt with before on this level, there will be critics regardless of which way he proceeds with things; however, it would likely aid him in squashing some of the critics by providing some further explanations as to why certain things are allowed and others are not. Hopefully sooner than later- early 2021 if vaccine development stays on track- coronavirus will be a thing of the past and we can all return to some semblance of normalcy. Until then, policies are likely going to keep getting changed and amended, and with that questions will likely continue to pop up.