By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey
Celebrating July 4 this year made us think of how our country is engaged right now in another battle, this time to win independence from an insidious virus that restricts our freedom and threatens our lives.
Like our founding fathers in 1776, we are engaged in a citizens’ war, a long battle that will take the perseverance of every citizen to win. As our state continues reopening, each of us must do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 that threatens our lives and our livelihoods and the future of the New Jersey economy.
While states across America are seeing surges and second waves, New Jersey is holding steady—and that’s in no small part thanks to you. Over the past several months, New Jerseyans have buckled down, wearing masks, social distancing, and doing everything we can to stop the spread of this virus. As our reopening continues, we’ll need to keep that going strong.
We know how exhausting these restrictions have been—believe us, there’s nothing we’d like more than to eat out with friends, head back to the gym, or take back any of the other things we’ve sacrificed. But our well-earned freedom to return to the things we took for granted before the pandemic can be easily lost. We’re seeing it every day on the news in other states that reopened earlier only to pull back because residents too quickly forgot or ignored precautions and new cases of COVID-19 spiked.
On July 2, the indoor portions of New Jersey malls and casinos reopened, along with outdoor playgrounds, outdoor amusement parks, and outdoor water parks. We were able to enjoy shopping and get our kids back to some of the entertainment they expect to enjoy during their summer vacations. Museums, libraries, aquariums, and indoor recreational facilities also reopened with capacity limits, expanding our opportunities to enjoy a good book, an art exhibit or a walk through our history and cultural past. These venues are restricted to 50 percent capacity. Face masks are required when indoors and social distancing is required everywhere when possible.
You can get back to your gym or fitness center, which were allowed to reopen in outdoor spaces on July 2 and you can get limited individualized training inside the gym by appointment.
This Monday, July 6, parents were able to experience the joy and pride of watching their children graduate in person as outdoor ceremonies began again. You’ll see some changes. Students, guests and school staff will be wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
Also on July 6, youth day camps and summer programs were able to open. You’ll see differences here, too. Campers and staff should expect to be screened for fever and other signs of illness before being allowed in. Kids can expect to be in the same group of campers with the same staff each day to reduce their exposure to others, and they’ll be eating lunch in shifts to make it easier to social distance. Everyone in the camp should wear cloth face coverings when they can’t stay at least six feet apart and full-contact sports and overnight stays won’t be happening this summer.
We are all suffering from the drag of this pandemic on our lives. But we are in a citizens’ war. If each of us does our part – social distance, wear a face covering, avoid large crowds and frequently wash our hands – we will win our freedom again.