Now that New Jersey has “flattened the curve” of coronavirus cases, a lot of people think the state should do more to reopen the economy. Count Senate President Stephen Sweeney as one of them.
At a town hall webinar this morning with NJBIA and the State Chamber of Commerce, Sweeney did not mince words.
“We’re moving too slowly,” Sweeney said. “Businesses have opened up all around us…. Every day that we hold back is another nail in the coffin of a small business, and it’s not acceptable.”
Sweeney said he has been asking the administration for the data it’s using to make reopening decisions, but for eight weeks, he said he has received no answer. The senator from Gloucester County pointed to the much anticipated Phase 2 reopening that’s going to begin on Monday as a perfect example. He wanted to know what data indicated restaurants should reopen on a Monday instead giving them a potentially lucrative weekend.
“I don’t think they’re using data, to be perfectly honest with you,” Sweeney said. “Why can’t restaurants open this Friday? Why can’t they have an extra weekend?”
NJBIA and the New Jersey Business Coalition have called for predictability in opening and have urged the administration to be more forthcoming on what businesses can expect in the future. Sweeney said he understands that there are risks in reopening, but that the social distancing and lockdown policies were never intended to eliminate coronavirus. He also noted that risks come from maintaining shutdown policies too long as well.
“As we open up, (cases) will spike a little bit,” Sweeney said. “But we understand that the spikes have to be expected as more people are out there,” Sweeney said. “I mean, if we’re going to try to get to zero, then we’re never going to open up and the economy is gone.”
Sweeney suggested that businesses be given the opportunity to figure out how to safely operate and that the only thing they need is the guidance for what’s expected of them if they do reopen.
Sweeney asked why golf courses have to double the time in between groups to 16 minutes instead of eight minutes. If restaurants can operate a 50% capacity outdoors, why not allow it to open at 50% capacity indoors as well and practice social distancing that way, he suggested.
“Since the government does say, ‘data drives decisions,’ show us the data and let’s get going,” Sweeney said.