By Amanda Valentovic
UNION COUNTY, NJ — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt daily life across the world, Union County and New Jersey state officials are providing updates every day to residents about cases in the county and state and how they are being handled. According to state of New Jersey statistics as of March 24, there have been 246 positive cases of COVID-19 in Union County; there have been 3,675 positive cases of COVID-19 across the state and 44 deaths. In an executive order that he signed on March 21, Gov. Phil Murphy directed all residents to stay at home until further notice.
“From day one, we’ve made a commitment to be guided by the facts and take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of New Jersey’s 9 million residents,” Murphy said in the announcement of the executive order. “We know the virus spreads through person-to-person contact, and the best way to prevent further exposure is to limit our public interactions to only the most essential purposes. This is a time for us all to come together in one mission to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow — and eventually halt — the spread of coronavirus.”
The order prohibits all gatherings unless otherwise authorized by the order. Individuals must practice social distancing, staying at least 6 feet apart, with the exception of immediate family members, caretakers, household members and romantic partners.
All nonessential retail businesses must close, allowing for the exceptions of grocery stores, pharmacies, medical marijuana dispensaries, medical supply stores, gas stations, convenience stores, hardware stores, banks, laundromats, pet stores, liquor stores, printing and office supply stores, and mail and delivery stores. Car dealerships will be allowed to remain open, but for auto maintenance and repair only.
“Nothing in the order shall limit: the provision of health care or medical services; access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; the operations of the media; law enforcement agencies; or the operations of the federal government,” a press release announcing the executive order read.
Law enforcement officers, firefighters, other first responders, cashiers and store clerks, construction workers, utility workers, repair workers, warehouse workers, lab researchers, IT maintenance workers, janitorial and custodial staff, and certain administrative staff are all considered employees who need to present at their work site in order to perform their job.
Murphy also signed Executive Order 108, which “invalidates any county or municipal restriction that in any way will or might conflict with any of the provisions of Executive Order No. 107.”
“Municipalities or counties cannot: make any additions to or deletions from the list of essential retail businesses; impose any additional limitations on businesses beyond the governor’s order; impose any additional density or social distancing requirements; or impose any additional restrictions on freedom of movement,” the press release read. “The only exceptions are two categories over which municipalities or counties may impose any additional restrictions: online marketplaces for arranging or offering lodging, and municipal or county parks.”