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Gov. Murphy recommends curfew, closes restaurants and schools

<h6>New Jersey’s Governor: Phil Murphy / <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Phil_Murphy_for_Governor_(33782680673)_(cropped).jpg" target="_self">Wikimedia Commons</a></h6>
New Jersey’s Governor: Phil Murphy / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Phil Murphy has recommended a statewide curfew, closed restaurants, and ordered the closure of all New Jersey schools.

In a video posted to Twitter at around noon, Murphy announced that the state of New Jersey — as one among several other states — will be banning all gatherings of over 50 people. Murphy is also “strongly discouraging” any non-essential travel between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. — a recommendation that will “remain in effect for the foreseeable future.” Additionally, beginning at 8 p.m. tonight, all casinos, racetracks, theaters, and gyms will have to close.

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Restaurants and bars will also not be permitted to have guests dine in “until further notice” — though still able to deliver food and serve take-out options.

Though the curfew is only a recommendation, all “non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses” will be forced to close after 8 p.m. each night. Supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, and medical offices will remain open, Murphy said.

Murphy also announced the closure of all pre-K programs, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions in the state effective Wednesday, March 18. Schools will close “until such a time as deemed by health officials to be safe for classes to resume.”

“We do not take any of these steps lightly. We know that each comes with its own set of impacts,” Murphy said. “But at this moment, our paramount concern must be to ‘flatten the curve’ of new cases so we do not overload our healthcare system.”

Connecticut and New York have implemented the same general guidelines, what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred to as “a common set of rules.” 

"We have agreed to a set of rules, so don't even think about going to a neighboring state because there is a different set of conditions," Cuomo said during the press conference. "I believe we are the only region in the country to do that."

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Murphy had previously expressed frustration with the New Jerseyans' implementation of social-distancing measures — citing a report of crowded Asbury Park bars and restaurants on Sunday night. Nearly 100 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday afternoon. 

“Not enough is being done,” he said. “It’s too much business as usual.”

Taylor Frye, owner of Kilwins Princeton — a chocolate and ice cream shop on Witherspoon Street — said that he is unsure how his business will be impacted, since Kilwins is considered a “retail food” store rather than a restaurant. Though planning to stay open as usual, Frye said he has sent all student workers home.

“As far as I understand, the curfew is strongly recommended by the governor and not actually enforced under the state of emergency. So I plan on staying open until 10 unless a state worker or something tells us to close,” he added. “I can’t imagine that we’d get shut down before a fine or a warning or something.” 

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Businesses — not including bars and restaurants — may remain open during the daytime hours so long as they limit their occupancy to no more than 50 people and adhere to Center for Disease Control social distancing guidelines, according to Murphy.

While Kilwins may not be heavily impacted, Frye says other store owners are more worried. He said that Jules Thin Crust — a pizzeria on Witherspoon Street — has sent all of their employees home and “some restaurants” have removed chairs.

“Obviously this isn’t a great position to be in as a small business owner. First we were worried about students going home,” he said. “Now it’s setting in that this isn’t a one or two week thing but a multi-week thing.”

At around 1 p.m. Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert shared a link to a new state government website “devoted to business concerns during the coronavirus emergency.”

Additionally, in compliance with Murphy’s orders, Dillon Gym — including recreational areas such as Stephens Fitness Center, the Cardio Annex Rooms, and Dillon Pool — will be closing on Monday at 7:00 p.m.

The Princeton University Library system will be closed today and tomorrow as well, and the Princeton University Art Museum has been closed until further notice. 

The new mandates will not impact Whitman Dining Hall, which has been exclusively serving to-go boxes for several days.

“The University’s moves to remote instruction last week and current operating policies place us in compliance with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order introduced today,” University Deputy Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian. “University operations continue with functions modified as announced last week and over the weekend. Faculty, staff, and students remaining on campus will be notified of any further changes.”

Josephine de La Bruyere contributed reporting.

This story is breaking and will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.

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