In response to Governor Phil Murphy announcing a regionalized monitoring system to track COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, State Senator Troy Singleton once again renewed his call for a regionalized reopening strategy for all of New Jersey, including its businesses.
“For months, I have urged the Governor to implement a regional reopening strategy that would allow less affected parts of the state to open as soon as possible,” said Singleton. “I’m hearing again and again from restaurant owners, gym operators, daycare centers and many others that they are barely hanging on by a thread. A regional reopening plan would allow us to meet both our public health and economic needs. Yesterday’s announcement proves that if it can be done for schools, we can –and frankly must –do it for our businesses as well.”
Singleton has advocated for a regional approach to reopening New Jersey’s economy since May, once infection rates and hospitalization numbers were on the steady decline. On May 22, he joined with other South Jersey leaders in calling for timetables and plans to reopen regions of the state that had fewer COVID-19 infections. On May 28, he sent a letter to the Governor urging the implementation of a regional reopening strategy, even providing a legal opinion in support of such an approach (text of letter below). Further, as part of the Senate Fiscal Recovery Strategists Committee, he has heard firsthand from numerous industries about the negative impact that the pandemic has had on their businesses.
Below is the text of the letter that Senator Singleton sent to Governor Murphy:
May 28, 2020
The Honorable Phil Murphy
Dear Governor Murphy,
On the outset, I would like to commend you and your Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two months. Undoubtedly, having the weight of 9 million lives on your shoulders is a heavy burden and you have carried that responsibility dutifully, thoughtfully, and diligently.
As a result of your Administration’s swift actions to “flatten the curve,” we have now seen a steady and prolonged decline in the rate of new hospitalizations and total hospitalizations, as well as decreased numbers of individuals on ventilators and in ICU/ CCU since the peak of the pandemic. Certainly, this is welcome news for the entirety of our state.
However, while the healthcare data related to COVID-19 is trending downward, we are facing another looming crisis – an economic one – that must be addressed immediately. Over a million workers are still unemployed in New Jersey, which means that paying their household bills has become a daily struggle. More than 2/3 of businesses have reported a decline in their revenue. Even more sobering, over 25 percent of businesses reported no income at all during the public health emergency. We must act now to mitigate the economic pandemic that is slowly but surely devastating our state – employees need to go back to work, and businesses need to reopen their doors before they shut them for good.
As discussions around reopening our state and restarting our economy continue, I would urge you to give strong consideration to a regional strategy that would allow less affected parts of the state to open as soon as possible. Specifically, a regional plan has been recommended by the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey. According to published reports in the New York Times, New Jersey’s medical data indicates that 15 counties in New Jersey, including many in South Jersey, have roughly half the number of infections, or fewer, than other counties within our state. While I know you have remained consistent in your belief that a statewide strategy is best, these counties should be allowed to safely reopen, similar to how neighboring states have implemented a regional approach.
Further, it has come to my attention, that your administration may be hesitant to implement a regional reopening strategy because doing so could be in violation of the State or Federal Constitutions. Therefore, I posed this question to the Office of Legislative Services and requested a legal opinion from them, which I have attached for your review. In sum, it is the opinion of their counsels that “a regional reopening plan could be crafted that would not violate the Equal Protection Clause and would likely survive judicial review at both the federal and state levels.” Additionally, they suggested that a regional reopening plan should be based on “reliable statistical or scientific information.”
In closing, I fully understand that these are unprecedented times and that the health and safety of all New Jerseyans must be our top priority. However, I believe it is entirely possible for a regional reopening strategy to be implemented that can meet both our public health and economic needs. I humbly and respectfully request the courtesy of an immediate reply and welcome the opportunity to speak to you further on this matter.
Hon. Troy Singleton
Senator, 7th Legislative District
cc: George Helmy, Chief of Staff