Coronavirus lockdown: New York, New Jersey residents losing patience with governors' reluctance to give firm dates for reopening

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As states across America are revealing when they will reopen their economies one by one, residents in the two hardest-hit by the coronavirus -- New York and New Jersey -- are losing their patience.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that parks and golf courses can reopen this weekend, days after saying his state’s stay-at-home orders and business closures will remain in effect until further notice.

The Democrat unveiled a six-point “Road Back” economic recovery plan this week, but it provides no specific dates – something that State Sen. Michael Doherty believes Murphy should announce, considering that the coronavirus hospitalization numbers in New Jersey have turned out to be less than once projected.

“Governor Murphy should say ‘hey this is great news’ and he should provide some dates for when we are opening back up,” the Republican, who represents a part of northwest New Jersey, told Fox News. “Because he is just kicking people right in the gut when he tells people ‘Well, we are going to get locked down and there is no date and it’s indeterminate.'

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“Does he realize the psychological impact that has on the residents of New Jersey?” Doherty added. “Who, cannot pay their bills, cannot pay their rent, cannot buy food because they can’t work?”

Doherty called the state’s coronavirus deaths “tragic” and said it was the right call in the beginning to take precautions. t now, he says, But now, Doherty said, Murphy “needs to reassess and look at the new data that is coming in.

“I hear from constituents and business owners every day about how they have had their fill of this governor shutting down the state,” Doherty said, adding that Murphy needs to “provide some real hope for New Jersey and not continue to be part of this doomsday cult that just rolls out bad news.”

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Murphy’s office, when asked about specific reopening dates and a response to Doherty's remarks, pointed out the governor's comments on "Fox & Friends" Thursday morning in which he said reopening can begin to be phased in "as soon as we can responsibly get the health challenges under control" -- which he thinks could be in a matter of weeks, not months.

"The curve has got to come down," Murphy said. "The testing has got to get ramped up. We have got to be able to contact trace and isolate and then I think when we have that in place -- and I hope that is sooner than later by the way -- we can then begin to take the steps that we all want to take."

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In New York, which has suffered the most coronavirus deaths and cases in the nation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also has been reluctant to disclose exact dates for reopening its economy. His state, along with Murphy's, is part of a northeast coalition that includes Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware, which are all coordinating the reopening of their economies in unison.

Cuomo has said repeatedly that regions must be mindful of when they reopen to prevent an influx of out-of-town visitors -- but the task may be difficult as the weather is warming up and restlessness appears to be brewing throughout the densely-populated corridor. On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters descended on New Jersey's state capital of Trenton to protest Murphy's lockdown orders.

Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, rolled out a 12-point plan this week for a phased reopening “on a regional basis”, pending certain conditions are met, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation of a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate. Cuomo also recently signaled that he plans to extend his state’s coronavirus prevention measures past May 15 for harder-hit regions, while others might be allowed to start reopening gradually, beginning with their construction and manufacturing industries.

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But in terms of specific dates, New Yorkers – like their neighbors in New Jersey – are still seeking clarity.

“Getting a plan out from the governor has been very difficult,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay – one of several Republicans in the state legislature who has been pushing for a regional reopening – told Fox News. “He did finally come out with a 12-point plan... but I challenge any business to look at that plan and try to get some sense of when they could open – it doesn’t really provide any guidance.”

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Barclay, who represents a district north of Syracuse, says he’s been fielding calls from constituents “almost every day” who are asking about dates for a reopening.

“I think people have a lot of patience. I think people understand that we are in a pandemic – our lives are at risk. And no one wants to be responsible for creating more havoc in that regard,” he said. “But people also want information and people’s patience starts to run thin when they don’t get information or a road map of what we are going to do.”

Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, who co-signed a letter with Barclay asking Cuomo for a regional reopening, said “too many of our families are struggling and if it’s safe to do so, we need to allow certain regions of the state to safely reopen.

“We can’t continue to sit back and watch our economy suffer if it’s safe to restart it sector by sector and region by region,” said the Republican, who represents a district near Watertown that the state says has vastly fewer coronavirus cases than downstate.

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Cuomo’s office, when asked by Fox News for specific dates, emphasized the governor’s 12-point plan and a recent Siena College poll indicating New Yorkers overwhelmingly approve of his decision to keep the state’s coronavirus prevention guidelines in effect through at least May 15.

New York State Sen. George Amedore Jr., a Republican who had sent a letter to Cuomo in mid-April urging him to consider a regional approach to reopening the state’s economy starting tomorrow, told Fox News that nailing down specific dates is “hard to project because nobody would have ever projected this pandemic.”

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But he believes doing so would bring a “sense of peace of mind” to New Yorkers and put a definitive “line in the sand” as to when the state can start moving forward.

“And if the data doesn’t show it to be safe, then we got to move the line and we got to move the date,” Amedore said. “But to keep this narrative going of... ‘it’s coming and it’s coming, it’s getting better and the numbers are trending down but yet we still don’t know exactly when we can go back to work’ -- I think it would help the public to know and to put a date down as to the reopening of New York.”