New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced May 6 his intention to sign an executive order extending the state’s public health emergency into June. (Youtube screengrab.)

Gov. Phil Murphy announced today that non-essential construction and retail businesses can resume operations starting May 18.

Executive Order No. 142 states that stores may reopen for curbside pickup only. Customers will not be allowed inside. Work on construction sites will be allowed to resume with clearly-posted safety protocols, proper sanitation, measures to prevent overcrowding, prohibiting non-essential visitors, staggered work hours and breaks.

“Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be able to take more steps,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “We’re moving slowly and deliberately because any misstep risks further outbreaks. When public health tells us it is safe to remove a restriction, we’ll remove it. Not a moment before. Not a moment after. The success we’ve had flattening the curve gives us confidence that we’ll be able to announce the end of more restrictions in the days and weeks ahead. There is no light switch we can flip. We can only slowly raise the dimmer.”

Governor gives restart date for NJ nonessential businesses, construction

Data shows that COVID-19 trends are gradually decreasing in New Jersey.

The state will also allow drive-through and drive-in events under social distancing guidelines. These events include drive-in movies and church services. Participants must remain in cars, and all windows, sunroofs and convertible tops must remain closed if vehicles are closer than six feet apart.

“Data shows that we are ready to begin to restart our economy,” Murphy wrote on his Twitter account.

That data includes some cautiously promising statistics. Total COVID-19 hospitalizations are down nearly 50 percent since numbers peaked, positive cases are down nearly 70 percent and deaths have decreased more than 33 percent. The number of patients in intensive care units and on ventilators have also decreased.

However, Murphy stressed that there is still work to be done and reason to remain cautious. New Jersey currently has 141,560 positive cases, up 1,028 from May 12. The statewide death total stands at 9,702.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” he said. “When compared to other states, we see that New Jersey still bears a significant burden from COVID-19. So, keeping up with social distancing is essential as we move forward.”