Virus Outbreak New Jersey

A sign warns patrons to wear a mask Nov. 24, 2020, in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey.

(The Center Square) – A group of New Jersey business associations wants to know Gov. Phil Murphy’s plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions in the state so businesses “can anticipate their operational and workforce needs now.”

In a letter to the governor, the New Jersey Business Coalition also asked the governor to “revisit and revise past Executive Orders (EOs) that are no longer necessary or potentially contradict existing EOs.” They also want a plan for the “targeted upskilling and reskilling efforts to prepare our displaced workers for jobs requiring new and higher-level skills.”

“We do this because we cannot sustain on the current economic model, and it appears clear that our current pandemic state will not be changing anytime soon,” the organization wrote.

“We want to recognize that at this point in time, right now, we are experiencing the new normal,” the group added. “And it is in this new normal where we need a comprehensive plan not only to address how to operate for the longer term, but in the environment, we find ourselves in today.”

A spokesperson for Murphy did not immediately respond with comment from the governor. However, at a news briefing earlier this week, the governor indicated the state’s density is one reason New Jersey cannot reopen as quickly as other states.

“This is, by any measure, [is] a once-in-a-century, at least, if not bigger than that, whatever that would be, health crisis and pandemic. And we’re not out of the woods,” Murphy said, according to a transcript. “And that gets to the question of the slowness. I would love to be a less dense state that has warmer weather more often in the year, as it relates to a pandemic.

“I love how we’re situated in normal times: our density, our location are two of our great attributes when you’re talking about most of what New Jersey’s about, away from a pandemic,” Murphy added. “But in a pandemic, our density, our proximity to New York City, it’s not just the densest state in the nation, the densest region, we’ve been indoors for most of our lives the past now going on four to six months. We just don’t have the latitude that other states that don’t have that density and don’t have that weather reality.”

Republicans in the Garden State have long called on Murphy to allow businesses to reopen. They were quick to seize on the letter, saying the governor should listen to employers.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve joined the business community in urging Governor Murphy to be transparent about his decision-making process to make it possible for the small businesses, Main Street shops, and industries that employ millions of New Jerseyans to lead our economic recovery,” state Sen. Steven Oroho, R- Sussex, said in a news release. “If New Jersey is to minimize the amount of harm to our working families as we head towards reopening, the governor needs to start listening to the serious concerns raised by their employers.”