What’s open, what’s closing, and the latest information on response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our area. Plus: our full archive of COVID-19 reporting in one spot.
By Matt Skoufalos | March 15, 2020
As most things grind to a halt over the coming weeks, we’ll try to keep up with the changes here.
- Audubon will close all borough facilities from March 16 to 29, scaling back to first responders and public works personnel only. The governing body will still hold its March 17 commissioners meeting, and offered a video link for those who wish to attend virtually. The virtual meeting will still offer an opportunity for public comment, commissioners said.
- Cherry Hill is closing its township municipal building, public works administrative offices, and library from March 16 until March 29. Essential operations—police, fire, public works—will continue. Township government will review scheduled public meetings “to determine whether they are necessary for the continuation of governmental operations.” Already canceled are its March 16 planning board and March 19 zoning board meetings. The township has also posted links to its various departments for resident services.
- Collingswood closed all public offices as of March 17, and discontinued community events through April 30; the local government had already closed its public library and community center a day earlier. The borough is offering free three-hour parking until further notice to reduce COVID-19 transmission via parking meters and kiosks. The Collingswood library is adding more ebooks to its collection and suspending return deadlines during the outbreak. A list of local businesses that are offering curbside service during the quarantine is available here.
- Haddonfield declared a local state of emergency March 16. In a letter to the public, commissioners reinforced the same directives largely in force statewide, and canceled meetings through the end of April. Until April 30, parking kiosks will not be enforced and overnight parking restrictions will be relaxed as well.
- On March 15, Haddon Township canceled all public events and government meetings through the end of the month. Its municipal building “will be open by appointment only for essential matters.”
- Haddon Heights will close its borough offices to the public and to non-essential employees from March 16 through 22, and will review the necessity of holding regularly scheduled meetings. Essential services will continue to be provided.
- Merchantville has switched all its meetings to telephone or video conference only until further notice with the exception of borough council, which will continue to operate normally as well as over streaming services. The borough is encouraging residents to conduct all business with local government offices over the phone, and has cancelled all public events through April 12.
- Oaklyn borough offices, municipal court and public library will be closed from March 16 through 27. Essential services will continue to be provided.
- Pennsauken has closed its municipal building, library, court, and country club until further notice. The public works and water commission will operate on modified schedules and are closed to the public.
Camden County Government. All non-essential county personnel will begin working from home March 17 through 27 and will remain on-call as needed as part of an emergency declaration. Permitting for events at Camden County parks has also been discontinued.
County-operated and congregate senior centers will close at 5 p.m. March 16. All senior citizens enrolled in the Camden County Nutrition Program automatically will receive home delivery of meals March 17.
The Camden County Board of Social Services will transition most of its operations to telephone interviews. New benefit applicants may apply here. Paperwork can still be dropped off at the building via its mailbox.
Gyms, Casinos, Movie Theaters, Bars, Restaurants. In a joint statement with the governors of Connecticut and New York, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that all non-essential businesses will shut down at 8 p.m. March 16. This includes gyms, casinos, racetracks, bars, and movie theaters.
Restaurants will still be allowed to provide take-out, and businesses may remain open during daytime hours starting March 17 if they limit their occupancy to no more than 50 people. The governor is also recommending a limit on non-essential travel between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Indoor Portions of Retail Shopping Malls, Amusement Parks & Bowling Alleys. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania jointly announced the temporary closure of more gathering spaces March 18. Shopping malls, amusement parks, and bowling alleys will all close March 19 at 8 p.m. until further notice. Murphy had announced their closure in New Jersey the day before. Public parks and open recreation areas are not covered by this order.
Outdoor playgrounds, bathrooms, water fountains in the Camden County Parks system. Parks will remain open as outdoor-only facilities during regular operating hours, the county government announced late March 18.
Convenience and grocery store self-serve food and drink. Self-serve food and drinks, “including coffee and cappuccino bars, fountain drinks and soda, roller grills, bakery cases, soup and salad bars, nacho/chili cheese machines, and condiment bars,” can only be sold in Camden County if employees dispense them along with condiments, the county government announced March 18.
Personal-care businesses and social clubs. On March 19, Governor Murphy ordered all personal care businesses “that cannot comply with social distancing,” including barber shops, hair salons, spas, nail and eyelash salons, and tattoo parlors, to close by 8 p.m. The same closures will affect social clubs as well.
Non-Essential Businesses. All nonessential businesses in the county are asked “to consider voluntarily closing or modifying operations to comply with CDC social distancing recommendations,” Freeholders said in a statement March 16.
In a new order issued March 24, Murphy also added the following businesses to the list of essential service providers who are allowed to remain open:
- Mobile phone retail and repair shops;
- Bicycle shops, but only to provide service and repair;
- Livestock feed stores;
- Nurseries and garden centers;
- Farming equipment stores
Schools. All public schools, colleges, and universities in New Jersey will shut down March 18, according to Governor Murphy. On March 24, Murphy also put the kibosh on all standardized testing for New Jersey students for the 2019-2020 school year, saying, “The number-one priority must be for our students to work on the lessons before them and to use the time as best as possible to keep up with their current studies.”
That list includes the children of:
- Healthcare workers
- law enforcement personnel
- first responders
- childcare center employees
- staff who provide essential services
- essential government employees
- retail workers
Libraries. All branches of the Camden County library system will be closed until April 13, the County government announced March 16. The system will continue to offer streaming services and Facebook Live events for residents to enjoy remotely.
On March 20, Governor Murphy ordered an indefinite closure of all municipal, county, and state public libraries in addition to all libraries and computer labs at public and private colleges and universities.
Hospitals. The New Jersey Hospital Association announced a no-visitor policy until further notice. Although voluntary at this time, the guidance is being widely adopted throughout the state, with a handful of exceptions for patients in hospice or end-of-life care. It also provides for a single visitor or support person for maternity, pediatric, and same-day surgery patients, but in each case, those visitors must be screened for symptoms before being allowed to visit.
Elective surgeries and invasive procedures. In efforts to limit further spread of the virus and conserve healthcare resources, Governor Murphy announced the suspension of all elective surgeries and invasive procedures as of 5 p.m. March 27.
Municipal Courts and Jury Trials. Through March 27, anyone with a scheduled municipal court appearance should wait for a new court date, according to the state judiciary. Municipal courts will continue to handle applications for temporary restraining orders, detention hearings, and matters of public safety. Anyone scheduled to appear between March 16 and March 27 will be notified by the state. Filings and payments still will be accepted, except in municipalities where the local court has been shut down. NJMCDirect.com will still accept payments for traffic violations.
Prisons and Halfway Houses. With the exception of legal visits, the state Department of Corrections is suspending visitation to state correctional facilities and halfway houses for a period of 30 days. In exchange, access is being granted for additional, free phone calls, additional JPay kiosk usage, and free postage for people in the inmate and Residential Community Release Program.
Secure Care Facilities and Residential Community Homes. Similarly, the state Juvenile Justice Commission is enacting a 30-day ban on visits to juvenile justice facilities. To offer some relief, the body is increasing free access to phone calls and video visits.
Motor Vehicle Commission. All New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agencies, road testing, and inspection facilities were ordered closed until March 30. On March 27, that order was extended through April 12.
County Events. In addition to all programs for seniors, who are presumed especially susceptible to COVID-19, the Camden County government has cancelled a number of concerts, sporting events, and public gatherings. See the full list here.
Adventure Aquarium. The Camden waterfront attraction was planning to reopen Saturday, March 28, but will remain closed for the foreseeable future. Refunds are being offered, and visits are being rescheduled as needed.
PATCO Hi-Speedline. On March 26, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) announced the temporary closure of its Ashland, Westmont, Camden City Hall, and 12/13th & Locust St. PATCO Speedline stations during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Monday through Friday, trains at all other stations will run every hour from midnight to 4 a.m., every half-hour from 4 to 5:00 a.m., and every 20 minutes between 5 a.m. and 12 noon.
On Saturday, trains will run every hour from midnight to 5 a.m., and every half-hour from 5 a.m. to noon. On Sunday, trains will run every hour.
The DRPA is also closing cash lanes on all bridges and billing non-EZ-pass-holding customers for their tolls by mail, and with no additional fees.
In acknowledgment of the hardships presented by COVID-19, the state of New Jersey is:
- automatically extending for two months driver licenses or vehicle inspections that would be due at the end of March 2020;
- seeking an additional half-month of federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to allow needy families to stock up on essentials;
- asking public utility companies to “voluntarily and universally” suspending shutoff orders for customers who are behind on their bills;
- requesting a special enrollment period for uninsured New Jerseyans to enroll in health insurance;
- opening a resources portal for small businesses affected by COVID-19;
- investigating concerns around COVID-19-related price gouging;
- providing an extra $100 per child per month to child care providers to cover children in the state child care subsidy program, offering grant funding to cover child care center cleaning supplies or services, and removing the parent copay for children in the state child care subsidy program;
- extending 60 days of WorkFirst New Jersey cash assistance to individuals whose cases are up for renewal in March or April; extending all Emergency Assistance cases through April 30; and exempting WorkFirst New Jersey and SNAP participants from “all adverse actions for non-compliance” with the programs’ work requirements;
- covering COVID-19 testing, visits for testing, and testing-related serviced for Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) participants and waiving the costs for those services; covering 90-day supplies of maintenance medications and early prescription refills for Medicaid and CHIP patients; directing hospitals to waive cost-sharing for uninsured, charity-care-eligible individuals for medically necessary testing and testing-related services associated with COVID-19;
- making it illegal to fire or refuse to reinstate a worker “who has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease which requires the employee to miss time at work.”;
- authorizing the state Economic Development Authority (EDA) to provide grants “during periods of emergency and for the duration of economic disruptions due to an emergency,” and to extend deadlines to submit required paperwork for projects. These funds can be used for “the planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, improving, equipping, and furnishing of a project, including grants for working capital and meeting payroll requirements.”
- encouraging healthcare providers to use telehealth services, including tele-mental health, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, and expanding access to those services;
- ordering all labs processing COVID-19 tests to report their findings directly to the state Department of Health to inform policy actions;
- asking public and private water systems, including municipal systems, to suspend any shut-offs for non-payment of bills during the COVID-19 outbreak;
- freezing nearly $1B in discretionary spending in the state budget to keep money available for COVID-19 response efforts.
Camden County Freeholder efforts include:
- suspending sheriff’s sales and evictions until further notice;
- offering meals to any senior in need in Camden County through the Division of Senior and Disabled Services: (856) 374-MEAL or (856) 858-3220;
- waiving face-to-face requirements for all required interviews with the Board of Social Services Clients will be diverted to phone interviews;
- waiving all work activity requirements for (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) TANF, General Assistance (GA), and SNAP benefit recipients. If sites are being closed due to coronavirus concerns, clients can reach out to their case managers to let them know;
- extending benefits for 60 days to TANF and GA recipients who were due for recertification in March and April.
- offering free digital access to all Camden County library resources during county and local physical library closures.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has established a disaster relief portal for businesses that have been affected by a COVID-19-related closure. See here for details.
Comcast has opened up its Xfinity Wi-Fi hotpots for free usage to non-customers, and is offering its Internet Essentials plan to new users for two months free. It’s also pausing disconnects and uncapping data limits for current customers.
Non-Essential Travel Limit Extended Statewide
On March 15, the Centers for Disease Control advised Americans to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, the better to limit the spread of COVID-19:
Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
This recommendation does not apply to the day-to-day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.
This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.
The agency noted that its recommendation is not intended to supersede the guidance of local officials, but Camden County officials followed suit Monday morning, asking all nonessential businesses “to consider voluntarily closing or modifying operations to comply with CDC social distancing recommendations.”
By March 15, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio had shut down dine-in restaurants, allowing take-out only, USA Today reported. On March 16, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut followed suit in a joint announcement.
On March 21, Governor Murphy signed an executive order “directing all NJ residents to stay at home until further notice,” and shutting all non-essential businesses. The order has a specific list of exceptions, makes provisions for businesses to allow employees to work from home, and supersedes all prior county and local actions.
For New Jersey’s dedicated COVID-19 site, click here.
For state updates on infection counts, check the New Jersey COVID-19 dashboard here.
For an international perspective on the spread of COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center tracks global incidences of the disease, including recovery rates.
Want to know the best ways to keep your home clean? Here’s the CDC guidelines for environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures in households suspected of coronavirus.
If your employer is not letting you work remotely, or is trying to violate terms of protective orders for workers during COVID-19, you can call 609-963-6817 or click this link and report them to the state.
If there’s any questions that you haven’t had answered here, call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-962-1253, 1-800-222-1222, or e-mail nj.gov/health.
Know something that hasn’t been mentioned here? Send us a tip.
Related Coronavirus Coverage
- First Presumptive Case of Coronavirus in Camden County, Officials Say Public Risk Low (March 6, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: School Closures ‘Inevitable, ‘Must be Done Responsibly,’ Murphy Says (March 13, 2020)
- Second Presumptive Positive Coronavirus Case in Camden County, First Patient Recovered (March 13, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: Murphy Mobilizes Nat’l Guard, ‘Strongly Discourages’ Non-Essential Travel, CamCo Tracks 3rd COVID-19 Case (March 16, 2020)
- Haddon Twp. Woman 3rd Presumptive Positive Coronavirus Case, Results Awaited on a Fourth (March 16, 2020)
- From Italy to New Jersey, a First-Hand Account of Coronavirus (March 17, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: Four New Cases in Camden County, Eight in Total (March 18, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: State Adds Beds, Nurses as Cases Climb; Seeks Federal Block Grants for Financial Relief (March 18, 2020)
- Pharmacy Manager: Customer Tried to Bribe Driver, Cashier for Toilet Paper (March 19, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 742 Cases, 14 in Camden County, 9 Total Deaths; Murphy Orders Salons & Clubs Closed, Suspends Foreclosures and Evictions (March 19, 2020)
- Coronavirus Testing: ‘Presumed Positive’ is Confirmed Positive, as CDC Defers to State Labs on Testing (March 20, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 2 More Dead, Cases Approach 900; Murphy Could ‘Tighten Screws on Social Distancing’ Tomorrow (March 20, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: Murphy Orders New Jerseyans to ‘Stay at Home Until Further Notice,’ Shutters Non-Essential Businesses, as COVID-19 Cases Break 1,300 (March 20, 2020)
- Philadelphia Health Researcher Launches National Coronavirus Survey; Here’s How to Participate (March 20, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 1,914 Cases, 20 Deaths in NJ, Bias Incidents Up, ‘Foreign Adversaries’ Sowing Misinformation (March 22, 2020)
- Amid Shortfall in COVID-19 Protective Gear, Disc Makers Pivots from CDs to Face Shields (March 22, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 2,844 NJ Cases, 21 Deaths, 1st in Camden County; Crackdown on Stay-at-Home Violators, Gougers; Non-Violent County Inmates Paroled (March 23, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 3,675 Cases, 44 Deaths, as Murphy Cancels Standardized Tests for Students, Freezes $900M in State Budget (March 24, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 4,402 Total Cases, 18 New Deaths, as Murphy Closes Childcare Centers for Families of Non-Essential Staff (March 25, 2020)
- ‘It’s Like Every Bad Situation Wrapped up Into One’: Local Leaders on the Impact of COVID-19 (March 25, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 2,500 New Cases Overnight, Murphy Says Schools Won’t Reopen Before April 17, Tax Deadline Likely to Move (March 26, 2020)
- NJEDA Offers $75M for Small Businesses Affected by Coronavirus, Mostly Loans (March 26, 2020)
- Coronavirus Update: 2K New Cases as Statewide Deaths Crack 100; Murphy Calls for Volunteers, Promises Mortgage News Tomorrow (March 27, 2020)
- Plenty of Goodwill, but Plenty of Red Tape for Community Volunteers Amid Increased Food Demand During COVID-19 (March 27, 2020)