On March 9, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a State of Emergency alongside a public health emergency during an interview with USA Today in Trenton in the effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Both the state of emergency and public health emergency will apply to all 21 counties in the state, allowing for state intervention and allow for state agencies to assist all those communities which have been afflicted by COVID-19.
In an announcement on his official Twitter account that same day, Governor Murphy said the declaration “responsibly removes bureaucratic barriers to make sure we have the resources and supplies our front-line public health and safety professionals need to do their jobs.”
It also aims to combat price gouging, which is the unreasonable increase in prices of goods, on consumer essentials.
Some stores have been accused of price gouging on items such as hand sanitizer, hand soap, bottled water and toilet paper which are in high demand amidst the pandemic.
According to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the department received 270 complaints of price gouging as of March 12, rising to a total of 619 complaints on March 17.
Other stores, such as Costco and Walmart, have taken to limit the amount of these products that can be bought by customers at once.
The announcement came less than a week after the first case of COVID-19 in New Jersey was reported in Bergen County on March 4.
Further endeavours by the government to control the spread of COVID-19 came on March 16, when Governor Murphy announced the closure of all New Jersey schools and colleges effective Wednesday, March 18.
Governor Murphy also added that starting on March 16, all non-essential travel within New Jersey between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. is highly discouraged, gatherings of 50 people or more is prohibited, and non-essential businesses must close after 8 p.m.
He clarified the difference between essential and non-essential business saying, “Businesses which play a direct role in our response efforts or are necessary for the public welfare like supermarkets and grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices, gas stations, among a very limited list, may open after 8 p.m.”
These policies escalated on March 21, when Governor Murphy signed an executive order directing all New Jersey residents to stay at home. The exceptions are “obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work or engaging in outdoor activities.”
To further emphasize social distancing, the executive order also outlines all non-essential businesses to close their doors indefinitely by 9 p.m.
“This is no time for ‘business as usual’,” said Murphy. “This is a time for us all to come together to flatten the curve and slow, and eventually halt, the spread of coronavirus.”