FILE - NJ Phil Murphy 3-17-2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy delivers a briefing on the coronavirus outbreak March 17, 2020. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy directed all indoor retail shopping malls, amusement parks and amusement centers to close effective at 8 p.m. Tuesday as 89 more cases of COVID-19 were reported.

The closures will remain in effect until “the current emergency ends,” Murphy said in an update.

The 89 new cases bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state to 267. Three people have died, including a 90-year-old man whose Bergen County death was announced late Monday. Fifty-five percent of New Jersey residents diagnosed with COVID-19 are hospitalized.

“But as we continue to see large numbers of new cases every day, that number will change,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

Most of the cases are in the northeastern portions of the state. Some of them are directly linked to previous cases, but some are not.

“This is an indication that community transmission is occurring,” Persichilli said.

Murphy asked that everyone follow the guidelines and stay home as much as possible. Restaurants will be allowed to remain open for takeout and delivery only. Mall restaurants can remain open as long as they have separate entrances, Murphy said. Pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores will remain open.

Workers affected by the closures should be able to receive full or partial unemployment insurance, the governor said.

“We’re asking the federal government for assistance in ensuring that every unemployment insurance application is properly received and handled,” Murphy said. “We have among the nation’s strongest paid sick leave and expanded paid family leave laws.”

Murphy said he knows New Jersey business owners, particularly small businesses, are worried.

“Our entire economic team is working alongside the U.S. Small Business Administration to ensure that available financial relief can flow into New Jersey as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Murphy said. “Our full application was submitted this morning, and we’re pushing for swift approval. We’re also working to ensure continuity of operations for ongoing construction projects.”

Murphy said he hopes the state Legislature will pass a state business assistance program in the upcoming week. He said state and local governments should work with his office before making any directives.

Banks are being asked by Murphy to help their communities and work to defer loan payments or open lines of credit.

“I also urge banks to do what they can for their mortgage customers to make loan repayment much more flexible in the coming weeks and months,” Murphy said. “This is particularly true for workers in the hardest hit sectors, who work by the hour, or those in the gig economy.”

The governor also mentioned a federal relief bill currently being considered by Congress which is expected to provide some money for a payroll tax cut and some money for the Small Business Administration for loans.

Murphy sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking that he direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering to help build additional hospitals in the state to ease the strain on the state’s hospitals.

The governor also asked consumers to report scammers or price gougers to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

“I know this is a time of heightened anxiety,” Murphy said. “We will get through this as one New Jersey family, stronger than ever.”

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