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Sweeney: 'My big fear is we're going to reopen later than we should'
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Sweeney: 'My big fear is we're going to reopen later than we should'

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As Gov. Phil Murphy continues to announce that some businesses are allowed to reopen — on Tuesday it was car and motorcycle dealers and bike shops — Senate President Steve Sweeney said he worries the state has been too slow in getting the economy going again.

“The governor did a good job … but you have to be ready to reopen in a safe fashion, and bring businesses and people back to work,” Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, said in an online editorial board meeting with The Press of Atlantic City. “Because without that the back end of this is going to be worse.”

Sweeney said he would like the governor to give more decision-making power to local leaders.

“Cape May County did a dynamite (reopening) plan, so did Atlantic County. Instead of us trying to provide plans to them, let them decide,” Sweeney said.

“My big fear is we’re going to open later than we should,” Sweeney said. “Give guidance to business owners, and if there’s a problem, we shut them down. But at least give the businesses an opportunity.”

Restaurants in Cape May County have talked about using parts of their parking lots for seating, he said.

“They are pretty creative people. ... They have figured out a way to create a business to make a living. Don’t stifle their creativity. Give them the opportunity to make it work,” Sweeney said.

States around New Jersey were more aggressive than we were in allowing car dealers to operate, Sweeney said, and in reopening more types of businesses.

“Delaware is pretty much opened up,” Sweeney said, so New Jerseyans can drive there to spend their money. “There’s a lot of missed opportunity to bring economic development back — that’s a serious challenge.”

Murphy has slowly announced the reopening of businesses a few types at a time. On Monday, he said batting cages, driving ranges, horseback riding centers, tennis clubs, shooting ranges and community gardens may reopen Friday, as the state loosens restrictions intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

New Jersey was one of the hardest-hit states in the country. Overnight, the state reported about 1,000 more positive cases, for a total of 149,000, Murphy said, with 162 more deaths. The death toll stands at 10,586, according to the first-term Democratic governor. About half of those have been associated with long-term care centers such as nursing homes.

Two-week trends for hospitalizations, use of ventilators and intensive care units for patients are down across the state, Murphy said — factors leading to the phasing-in of certain parts of the economy.

For most people, the novel coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gov. Murphy announces multi-stage reopening plan

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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