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New Jersey Orders Its Residents to Stay Home

MARCH 21, 2020

New Jersey is the latest state to restrict the movements of its residents to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Governor Phil Murphy has announced a statewide stay-at-home order, and like those already in place in California, New York and Connecticut, Governor Murphy’s directive mandates that all “non-essential retail businesses” be closed to the public, with certain exceptions.

Michelman & Robinson addresses the questions that our friends and clients in the Garden State are sure to have.

Q. When does Governor Murphy’s stay-at-home order go into effect?

A. The order became effective tonight (Saturday, March 21) at 9:00 p.m. (EDT). As of now, an end date has not been announced.

Q. What are New Jersey residents required to do while the order is in place?

A. All New Jersey residents must remain home unless they are:

  • Obtaining goods or services from “essential retail businesses” (described below)
  • Obtaining takeout food or beverages from restaurants
  • Seeking medical attention, essential social services, or assistance from law enforcement or emergency services
  • Visiting family or other individuals with whom the resident has a close personal relationship
  • Reporting to, or performing, their job, as allowed
  • Walking, running, operating a wheelchair, or engaging in outdoor activities with immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners while following best social distancing practices (including staying six feet apart from other individuals)
  • Leaving home for an educational, religious, or political reason
  • Leaving home because of a reasonable fear for their health or safety
  • Leaving home at the direction of law enforcement or other government agency

Q. If I do leave my residence for permissible reasons, is there anything I need to know?

A. Yes, when in public, you must practice social distancing and stay six feet apart whenever possible, though this requirement excludes immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.

Q. Can I use New Jersey’s public transportation at this time?

A. Yes, but only if traveling for the reasons listed above, and only if you have no other feasible choice. And if you do use public transportation, you must make all efforts to stand or sit six feet away from other riders and frequently use sanitizing products.

Q. Does Governor Murphy’s order include any specific social restrictions?

A. Yes, gatherings of individuals—such as parties, celebrations, or other social events—must be cancelled for the time being.

Q. Does this directive mean I cannot operate my business in New Jersey?

A. The brick-and-mortar premises of all “non-essential retail businesses” must close to the public as long as the order remains in effect. That being said, if you operate an “essential retail businesses,” you are excluded from the directive and can remain open during your normal business hours.

“Essential retail businesses” include:

  • Grocery stores, farmer’s markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store
  • Pharmacies and alternative treatment centers that dispense medicinal marijuana
  • Medical supply stores
  • Retail functions of gas stations
  • Convenience stores
  • Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities
  • Hardware and home improvement stores
  • Retail functions of banks and other financial institutions
  • Retail functions of laundromats and dry-cleaning services;
  • Stores that principally sell supplies for children
  • Pet stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Car dealerships, but only to provide auto maintenance and repair services, and auto mechanics
  • Retail functions of printing and office supply shops
  • Retail functions of mail and delivery stores

Q. Can restaurants and bars remain open as well?

A. Yes, but only for take-out orders and food and beverage delivery. Pursuant to Governor Murphy’s order, all restaurants, cafeterias, dining establishments, and food courts, with or without a liquor license, all bars, and all other holders of a liquor license with retail consumption privileges, are permitted to operate their normal business hours, but are limited to offering only food delivery and/or take-out services in accordance with their existing liquor licenses.

Q. Must my “essential business” abide by any particular rules referenced in the stay-at-home order?

A. Yes, “essential retail businesses” that remain open to the public while Governor Murphy’s directive is in effect must follow social distancing practices to the extent practicable. These include all reasonable efforts to keep customers six feet apart and frequent use of sanitizing products on common surfaces.

Also, when possible, “essential retail businesses” must provide pickup services outside or adjacent to their stores for goods ordered in advance online or by phone.

Q. Did Governor Murphy order any specific businesses to be closed as a result of the pandemic?

A. Yes, the list of businesses that must remain closed at this time is a long one. They include: casinos and other wagering lounges; concert and entertainment venues; racetracks; gyms and fitness centers; movie theaters; nightclubs; indoor portions of retail shopping malls; amusement parts; water parks; aquariums; zoos; arcades; fairs; children’s play centers; bowling alleys; other family and children’s attractions; barber shops; beauty salons; hair braiding shops; nail salons; spas; massage parlors; tanning salons; tattoo parlors; and public and private social clubs. All municipal, county, and state public libraries, and all libraries and computer labs at public and private colleges and universities must stay closed as well.

Notwithstanding the above, online and mobile sports and casino gambling may continue, to the extent they were permitted to operate prior to the stay-at-home order. This is also true of restaurants and other “essential retail businesses” located within shopping malls that have their own external entrances open to the public, separate from the general mall entrance, but only pursuant to the relevant restrictions mentioned above (e.g., take-out orders, etc.).

Q. What does Governor Murphy’s order say about protecting New Jersey’s workforce?

A. In short, when possible, all businesses and non-profits in New Jersey must do their best to allow and accommodate their workers to work from home. This is the case whether or not these entities are open or closed to the public.

It is understood that this is not always possible, some functions cannot be performed remotely. In such instances, businesses and non-profits must do their best to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.

Q. Are New Jersey schools impacted too?

A. Yes, all schools—from kindergarten through college, and whether public, private, or parochial—must remain closed for in-person instruction so long as the stay-at-home order is in effect.

Notwithstanding these closures, the Department of Education is authorized to permit schools to remain open on a limited basis to provide food or other essential, non-educational services, or for educational or child care services if needed in emergency situations. Also, the Department of Agriculture will take all necessary actions to ensure that all students eligible for free or reduced meals shall continue to receive the services or supports necessary to meet nutritional needs during closures.

As we learn more about other stay-at-home (or similar) orders that come online in additional jurisdictions, we will be sure to inform you.

We are working diligently to keep our clients up to date on coronavirus-related developments. Nevertheless, these developments are changing daily and, in some cases even hourly, so it is important that you make sure you are dealing with the most current information. That being said, this alert is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for guidance and counsel regarding any specific concern or situation.