This story was written and produced by NJ Spotlight. It is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. To read more, visit njspotlight.com
New measures in New Jersey as well as the latest on closures — and exceptions — in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a number of executive orders over the last week. His current directive requires all New Jerseyans except those in essential jobs to stay at home unless they are travelling to get groceries or gas or visit a medical facility or one of the small number of essential businesses that remain open. Virtually all other employees are expected to work from home. Schools and nonessential businesses are closed. No gatherings of any kind, including weddings, parties and other social events, are permitted.
As of March 31:
Murphy announced some changes regarding businesses that can open. Auto dealers can continue to sell cars remotely and either deliver a vehicle to a customer or allow for curbside pickup at the dealership. Real estate agents may continue to show houses for sale, but only by appointment; open houses are not allowed. Breweries and brew pubs are allowed to deliver to homes. Following guidance from the federal government, the governor is allowing gun stores to reopen as of Tuesday morning by appointment and with limited hours. Golf courses may not operate.
The state COVID-19 testing site at Bergen Community College will be open beginning 8 a.m. Tuesday, while the PNC Bank site will close.
Union County has opened its testing site at Kean University to first responders from around the state. All first responders and Union County residents need to call (908) 373-5105 first to be assessed and receive an appointment time.
Mercer County is opening an appointment-only testing site on Tuesday, March 31, at the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence. The testing center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment only for county residents age 18 or older who have a prescription from their primary health care provider.
The state attorney general, acting state comptroller and U.S. Attorney for New Jersey have formed a joint federal-state task force to investigate and prosecute misconduct arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the unlawful hoarding of medical supplies, price gouging, charity scams, procurement fraud, insurance fraud, phishing schemes and false and misleading investment opportunities. Residents can report possible misconduct through a hotline established by the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721 or email@example.com. Complainants may remain anonymous.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is partnering with four organizations to offer support services to businesses seeking federal financial assistance through Small Business Administration (SBA) programs. The organizations will help small-business owners file their applications through the SBA to receive working capital loans to help them survive during the COVID-19 emergency. The organizations are: African American Chamber of Commerce; New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce; Rising Tide Capital and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
Supervising nurses may now conduct required evaluations with elderly and disabled residents receiving care from home health aides by telephone or video chat instead of in person to minimize the risk of the spread of the virus. This is a temporary rule waiver adopted by the state Division of Consumer Affairs.
Consumer affairs officials also issued an order imposing statewide restrictions on the prescribing and dispensing of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. These prescription drugs, used to treat malaria and certain chronic inflammatory conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, are being tested as possible treatments for COVID-19 and are reportedly being hoarded and prescribed inappropriately. The restrictions do not impact hospitals or clinical trials or people being treated with maintenance prescriptions for pre-existing conditions. For all others, the drugs may be prescribed and dispensed for treatment of COVID-19 only if supported by a positive test result, which must be documented on the prescription, and limited to a 14-day supply, with no refills permitted.
As of March 29:
Many banks have agreed to provide a grace period of up to 90 days on mortgage payments for those financially impacted due to the virus. The banks include Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, as well as more than 40 other federal and state-chartered banks, credit unions and servicers. These financial institutions will not report anyone receiving a grace period to credit reporting agencies. Banks have agreed to waive fees, including those for late payments, as a result of a grace period. They also will not initiate foreclosure proceedings for at least 60 days.
On Monday, March 30 the state COVID-19 testing site at PNC Bank Arts Center will open at 8 a.m. and remain open until it serves 500 people. PNC and Bergen Community College are now operating on a staggered schedule. Check covid19.nj.gov for which is open daily.
New Jersey is seeking health professionals to volunteer to help out during the state of emergency. The state has set up an online portal where volunteers can register at https://covid19.nj.gov/volunteer.
As of March 28:
All state Motor Vehicle Commission agencies, road testing locations and inspection facilities will remain closed for at least another two weeks. The offices shut on March 17 in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. They were scheduled to reopen Monday, March 30, but instead will remain closed through Monday, through April 12. Motorists can conduct business using the MVC’s online portal. Additionally, the federal government has extended the effective date of the enforcement of REAL ID licenses until October 2021, giving those who wish extra time to get a compliant license.
New Jerseyans receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food assistance benefits will be getting two additional payments. The March supplemental food aid will be loaded directly onto SNAP recipients’ EBT cards on Sunday. Another supplemental payment will be provided in April. New Jersey is giving the 670,000 New Jerseyans receiving SNAP benefits a total $70 million over the two months. Additionally, anyone whose cases were to expire in March, April or May will have additional time to recertify and will not lose benefits in the meantime. Anyone who needs food assistance can visit NJHelps.
Starting Sunday, March 29, the state COVID-19 testing sites at Bergen Community College and PNC Bank Arts Center will begin operating on a staggered schedule. That schedule will be posted on covid19.nj.gov. For each day a facility is operating, it will open at 8 a.m. and test up to 500 people.
As of March 27:
Murphy on Thursday announced a new state website for reporting personal protective equipment (PPE). Under Executive Order No. 109, any business, non-hospital health care facility, or institution of higher learning in possession of PPE, ventilators, respirators, or anesthesia machines must submit that information to the state by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27. The website also gives these entities the ability to donate PPE.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) board approved several new programs to provide grants and loans to support businesses of all sizes facing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak. These include a grant program for small businesses, a zero-interest loan program for mid-size companies and funding for entrepreneurs. They are expected to provide more than $75 million of state and private financial support and assist between 3,000 and 5,000 small and mid-size enterprises. More information about the programs will be available here. Philanthropic partners interested in donating to support the NJEDA’s small-business grant program should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COVID-19 testing sites at Bergen Community College and PNC Bank Arts Center will only accept symptomatic health care workers and first responders on Saturday, March 28. Beginning Saturday, April 4 and every following Saturday, the PNC Bank Arts Center will only accept symptomatic health care workers and first responders. Beginning Sunday, March 29, the testing site schedules will change; new schedules will be posted on COVID19.nj.gov.
As of March 26:
All child care centers must either close or solely serve as emergency centers for the children of essential workers, Murphy announced. The governor signed Executive Order No. 110, directing all child care centers to certify by Friday, March 27 that they will only serve the children of essential workers. Centers that wish to remain open for this purpose will have to fill out an online form. Without that official certification, child care centers must close by Wednesday, April 1.
A drive-thru COVID-19 testing site opened Wednesday, March 25 for Passaic County residents at William Paterson University. Residents must have a prescription to be tested. The testing site will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. as long as supplies last.
Essex County announced a drive-thru testing site will open Thursday, March 26 at Weequahic Park in Newark to service county residents. Testing will be by appointment only. Appointments can be made at EssexCOVID.org. The testing center will open again on Saturday, March 28 and Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week.
As of March 25:
Murphy and Superintendent of the State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan announced an Administrative Order on Tuesday, March 24, permitting additional retail businesses to operate during their normal business hours. Effective immediately, the following businesses are considered essential: Mobile phone retail and repair shops; bicycle shops, but only to provide service and repair; livestock feed stores; nurseries and garden centers; farming equipment stores. Businesses that remain operational must comply with social distancing.
The order also stipulates that municipalities may impose additional restrictions on beaches and boardwalks.
New Jersey has launched a new online portal to help connect residents with some 8,000 job openings that Murphy said are available in critical industries responding to COVID-19. The jobs portal is available here. Employers in critical industries can submit information about openings with urgent hiring needs by filling out a hiring intake form on the jobs portal.
The governor announced plans to cancel student standardized testing scheduled for April. The state has applied for a federal waiver to do that.
The New Jersey Bureau of Securities within the Division of Consumer Affairs is taking emergency action to help financial services professionals who typically work in New York to work temporarily with existing customers from their homes or temporary offices in New Jersey by exempting them from licensing and registration requirements through April 30.
Officials and organizations announced the creation of two funds to help New Jerseyans recover. First Lady Tammy Murphy launched the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, a nonprofit that will provide resources to vulnerable communities. Donations can be made online and information about applications for relief will be posted on the organization’s website. Additionally, United Way of Northern New Jersey has created the ALICE Recovery Fund, a crisis recovery fund to address emerging needs due to COVID-19’s impact on the five-county region the organization serves. The fund will offer assistance to households in poverty and those who live paycheck to paycheck. Donations can be made online.
As of March 24:
Murphy signed Executive Order No. 109, suspending all elective surgeries and invasive procedures for adults scheduled after 5 p.m. Friday, March 27 to preserve supplies and equipment for emergency purposes. The executive order applies to all medical and dental operations that can be delayed without risking the health of the patient.
The director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness said commercial laboratory operators should report all COVID-19 test results to the Department of Health (DOH), giving the state access to more complete COVID-19 test results.
A drive-thru COVID-19 testing site opened at the PNC Bank Arts Center Monday in Holmdel. The testing site will be open seven days a week, beginning at 8 a.m. as long as supplies last.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise announced that a designated testing center will open Tuesday, March 24 at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus. The testing center will provide by-appointment service only. Appointments can be made by calling 201-388-1097. The testing site will operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.
The Diabetes Foundation will offer free emergency kits early next week for individuals with all types of diabetes. The application form for emergency kits can be found here. For more information, contact the Diabetes Backup Emergency Kit hotline at 973-849-5234.
To curb the spread of COVID-19 among inmates and workers in jails, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice, Stuart Rabner signed an order to release inmates who are sentenced for low-level crimes from county jails beginning Tuesday, March 24.
The DOH issued waivers to assist Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) that dispense medical marijuana and caregivers. The waivers allow ATCs to serve patients curbside in their vehicles and reduce caregiver registration fees to $20. Consultations for new patients can now be done over the phone.
Walmart is hiring more than 2,400 new associates across New Jersey through the end of May to work in its stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers. Walmart has implemented expedited hiring processes and a temporary pay increase for all hourly associates working in e-commerce fulfillment centers from now through Memorial Day.
Cranford-based UCEDC announced its Crisis Relief Loan Program to offer low-interest, quick-response loans to help businesses impacted by COVID-19. Small businesses can borrow up to $15,000 at 2% for up to five years with no collateral requirements. The application is available online or a loan officer can be reached at 908-527-1166.
As of March 23:
Murphy announced Sunday that a COVID-19 community-based testing site will open Monday, March 23 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, Monmouth County. It follows the opening on Friday of a testing site at Bergen Community College.
Starting Monday, March 23 the drive-thru testing center in Holmdel will be open seven days a week, beginning at 8:00 a.m. as long as supplies last. Gates will not open until 8:00 a.m. and individuals will not be permitted to line up along the Garden State Parkway. PNC Bank Arts Center commuter lots will be closed. To be eligible for testing, individuals must be current New Jersey residents and experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness. Priority will be given to symptomatic individuals experiencing cough, fever (99.6F or above) and shortness of breath.
A Union County-led drive-thru testing facility is set to open in the parking lot of Kean University in Union, also on Monday, March 23. Testing there — for Union County residents, first responders and essential personnel who have been instructed by their health care provider to be tested for COVID-19 — will be by appointment only. Union County officials said residents seeking a test must be given a prescription and registered by their physician on a secure portal where they will receive an appointment.
Healthy people are being urged to donate blood, with the American Red Cross saying the coronavirus outbreak threaten the nation’s supply. Those who have visited mainland China, South Korea, Iran and Italy within 28 days, who have had a COVID-19 infection, or who have been exposed to someone suspected of having a COVID-19 infection should not donate now. Vitalant, which operates blood centers in New Jersey and nationwide, asks people to make an appointment for donating blood by calling 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825) or going online to vitalant.org.
The NJMental Health Cares hotline at 866-202-HELP (4357), is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those with mental health concerns.
As of March 22:
Murphy announced more stringent restrictions on Saturday, March 21, ordering New Jersey residents to stay at home except for necessary journeys, beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday. He ordered non-essential businesses to close until further notice.
Businesses listed as “essential” and thus allowed to stay open are: grocery stores, farmers 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 medical marijuana dispensaries; medical supply stores; gas stations; convenience stores; ancillary stores within healthcare facilities; hardware and home improvement stores; banks and other financial institutions; laundromats and dry-cleaning services; stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years; pet stores; liquor stores; car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics; printing and office supply shops; mail and delivery stores.
The order also prohibits “all gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations, or other social events, unless otherwise authorized…”
Emergency responders, health care and other essential workers are exempt from the order. In addition, a press release from the governor’s office noted that “employees who need to be present at their work site in order to perform their job duties include, but are not limited to, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, other first responders, cashiers or store clerks, construction workers, utility workers, repair workers, warehouse workers, lab researchers, IT maintenance workers, janitorial and custodial staff, and certain administrative staff.”
The order mandates that all businesses or nonprofits, wherever practicable, must accommodate their workforce for telework or work-from-home arrangements. According to the press release, “To the extent a business or non-profit has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements, the business or non-profit should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.”
As of March 21:
New Jersey opened its first drive-thru testing center at Bergen Community College in Paramus on March 20. The center opens daily at 8 am. Tests are limited to New Jersey residents who have symptoms, with a priority given to health care workers. A center is expected to open Monday at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel.
The Murphy administration required hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers to waive patient fees for testing and related diagnostic services for those who lack health insurance.
Murphy signed a law making it illegal for an employer to terminate or refuse to reinstate any worker who requests or takes time off from work, based on the recommendation of a medical professional because he has or is likely to get an infectious disease like COVID-19 during this state of emergency.
He also signed a laws requireing health insurance and Medicaid coverage for testing of COVID-19 and for telemedicine and telehealth during the current period.
Another new law makes it illegal for stores to accept returns of most grocery items to prevent the spread of the virus. Exceptions can be made for items returned due to a manufacturing defect.
The Internal Revenue Service is extending the federal income tax filing deadline, as well as the deadline for paying any taxes owed, to July 15.
The Raritan Headwaters Association has postponed its 30th annual stream cleanup, originally scheduled for April 18, to a date to be determined.
As of March 20:
Murphy signed Executive Order No. 106 that prohibits renters and homeowners from being removed from their residence due to evictions or foreclosures while the executive order is in effect.
The governor closed as of 8 p.m. March 19 all personal care businesses, including — but not limited to — barber shops, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors, spas and tanning salons as well as all social clubs that “cannot comply with social distancing guidelines” that include keeping 6 feet of distance between individuals.
The indefinite closure of all municipal, county, and state public libraries was announced in addition to all libraries and computer labs at public and private colleges and universities, effective from 8 p.m. on March 20.
The state has postponed special elections in Old Bridge, West Amwell and Atlantic City and April school board elections until May 12. All elections that are scheduled for May 12 will be conducted through vote-by-mail ballots.
The New Jersey State Library is extending the deadline for Library Construction Bond Act applications to June 5. The deadline to submit a list of approved projects to the Legislature in fiscal year 2020 will be postponed, possibly until mid-September according to the state.
Small Business Administration loans are available for north Jersey business owners, allowing them to apply for resources to help pay employees and other expenses.
Banks are increasing customers’ access to loans, credit and grants intended to alleviate financial hardship due to COVID-19, according to the New Jersey Bankers Association. Some banks have closed their lobbies but will meet with customers by appointment.
The coronavirus relief package signed into law by President Trump on March 18 will provide free coronavirus testing and paid emergency leave for certain American workers employed by businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced a mandatory 8 p.m. curfew, the closing of nonessential businesses until further notice, and City Hall services will be offered to residents by appointment only.
Kohl’s retail chain closed all its department stores Thursday evening until April 1.
As of March 19:
The state Department of Labor has closed all New Jersey One-Stop Career Center offices. They are expected to reopen Monday, March 30. Customers needing to file for unemployment insurance or other benefits are urged to apply online at MyUnemployment.nj.gov or MyLeaveBenefits.nj.gov.
NJ 211 is now handling COVID-19 related calls from New Jersey residents. Residents with questions or concerns about COVID-19 and resources available to them can call 2-1-1. Residents can also text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive text information; and for live text assistance, residents can text their zip code to 898-211.
The state Department of Human Services commissioner is modifying the Child Care Subsidy Program to implement temporary flexible enrollment policies and amendments to the payment policy. These changes include waiving parents’ child care subsidy copayments on request, providing child care providers who remain open an additional $100 per child, and giving grants to centers to support cleaning.
DHS is also automatically offering a 60-day extension on cash assistance to those whose cases come up for renewal in March or April, extending all emergency assistance through April 30 and exempting the work requirements for WorkFirst New Jersey and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The state announced it is covering COVID-19 testing, visits for testing, and testing-related services at no cost for those in NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid and waiving those costs for those in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); covering 90-day supplies of prescriptions and early refills for CHIP and Medicaid recipients; and directing hospitals to waive cost-sharing for uninsured individuals who are eligible for charity care for services for the COVID-19 virus.
DHS is also allowing senior citizens covered by PAAD and Senior Gold plans to refill their prescriptions early and get a 90-day supply of maintenance medications.
NJ TRANSIT has enhanced its cleaning efforts to include disinfecting vehicles every 24 hours. The cleaning regimen in stations includes additional disinfecting of frequent customer touchpoints such as ticket vending machines, handrails and door handles. For more information on procedures, visit NJ Transit’s COVID-19 page.
Many Rutgers University library locations remain open with limited hours. Check Rutgers’ library website for more information on library hours.
Camden County’s freeholders have declared a local state of emergency. All branches of the Camden County Library System will be closed until April 13.
The Hunterdon County Library System, which includes both county facilities and most municipal libraries, will be closed through at least April 1.
High Bridge issued an emergency proclamation that covers social distancing measures. The golf course and parks and playgrounds are closed. Call borough hall for further information at 908-638-6455.
As of March 18:
Essential retail businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations, as well as medical offices, remain open until 8 p.m. or later, if necessary. All nonessential retail, recreational and entertainment facilities must cease daily operations from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
All public, private and parochial preschool programs and all elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, are closed as of March 18. They will remain closed as long as the emergency order is in effect.
Institutions of higher education will cease all in-person instruction beginning March 18; in-person instruction will be suspended as long as the emergency order remains in effect. College facilities, including residence halls and food venues, can remain open, so check with individual schools. Montclair State University, for instance, is conducting all instruction online, but student housing and dining halls will remain open. (Students may eat in the dining halls or take food back to their rooms.)
Indoor portions of retail shopping malls and all indoor and outdoor amusement centers will remain closed as long as the emergency order is in effect. This includes amusement rides, water parks, aquariums, zoos, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys and family and children attractions. It does not cover outdoor parks and open-space recreation. Stores and restaurants located at a mall that have exits to the outdoors can remain open if they follow other restrictions.
Casinos, concert venues, nightclubs, racetracks, gyms, fitness centers and classes, movie theaters and performing arts centers will remain closed until further notice.
Campgrounds, visitor centers, nature centers, restrooms and similar facilities at state parks, forests, recreation areas, Wildlife Management Areas and historic sites are closed until further notice. That said, state parks, forests, recreation areas and Wildlife Management Areas, including roads, parking areas, trails, lakes and other open spaces will remain open.
Capital One Bank temporarily closed 17 branches in the New York region and all Capital One Cafés. Fourteen branches in the New York region remain open and Capital One ATMs are available 24/7.
The state Department of Labor has suspended in-person unemployment insurance services at all New Jersey One-Stop Career Center offices. They anticipate reopening on Monday, March 30. Customers needing to file for unemployment insurance are urged to apply online at MyUnemployment.nj.gov.
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission is suspending civil service examinations and training offered by its Center for Learning and Improving Performance (CLIP) until further notice. Its 21-county One-Stop Job Tours are also postponed until further notice.
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agency and road-testing facilities are closed, with plans to reopen in two weeks, on Monday, March 30. All driver’s licenses, non-driver IDs, vehicle registrations and inspection stickers expiring before May 31 have been extended by two months. Most renewals, replacements, changes of address and other transactions can be processed online at NJMVC.gov.
Some in-person Superior Court proceedings, including most landlord-tenant matters, have been postponed through March 27. For the full list by county, visit the court’s website.
Municipal courts statewide are generally closed through March 30, with some exceptions. The full list is available online.
The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) suspended visits for 30 days, through April 14. The JJC is increasing access to other forms of communication with families, including providing additional phone calls free of charge, and expanding access to video visits.
The New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) suspended visits for 30 days through April 13. NJDOC is increasing access to other forms of communication with families, including expanding inmate and resident access to additional phone calls, free of charge; increasing inmate and resident access to additional JPay kiosk usage; and providing the inmate and Residential Community Release Program population free postage.
The Camden County Board of Social Services is cutting back its staff. All face-to-face requirements are waived and interviews can be done over the phone. Work-activity requirements for TANF/GA/SNAP are waived. Cash assistance recipients due for recertification in March and April will get a 60-day extension. Clients can apply for all programs offered at the board by visiting njhelps.org.
The Essex County Sheriff’s Office will not execute evictions and will suspend foreclosure sales indefinitely.
Trenton Water Works is suspending some of its operations for two weeks, with the expectation of resuming hydrant inspections, seasonal meter installations and other services on March 30. In-person service at TWW’s Cortland Street operations center is also suspended and the facility is temporarily closed to the public.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities announced that the state’s public electric and gas utilities have universally agreed to suspend service shutoffs.
Access to the interior of the State Capitol complex is limited to members of government, government employees and contractors; credentialed members of the press; and invited participants with business in the complex. Tours, field trips and large gatherings are canceled. The public is encouraged to submit written testimony electronically for committees.
Belleville has declared a local state of emergency. Daycare centers will close beginning Thursday, March 19. Public access to the town hall is prohibited unless residents have an appointment. The public library is closed until further notice. Check the township website for more information, including about upcoming public meetings.
Hoboken has imposed a citywide curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. until further notice for all but emergency situations and those who need to work.