Gov. Phil Murphy has signed an executive order that will allow non-essential retail businesses to open on Monday and sell their products by offering curbside pickup, but customers will still not be allowed in the stores.

Some small business owners were hoping to be allowed to completely resume operations with social distancing, limited capacity and masks, but Murphy said the process needs to be gradual.

“We are beginning the careful process of re-starting our economy and getting our state on the road back,” he said. “We’re still in a stay-at-home mode. We’re still stay at home unless you have to go out.”

Tom Bracken, the head of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said this is a step in the right direction.

"Curbside pick-up for non-essential retail is not going to recover our economy overnight. But it is a start to what, hopefully, will be a gradual recovery that will accelerate at an increasing pace," he said. "The fact that we are beginning our restart gives a glimmer of hope that the medical crisis is waning and we can begin an earnest focus on economic recovery."

Murphy noted new hospital admissions, total hospitalizations, the number of patients in ICU and on ventilators and the total number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in New Jersey all continue to drop significantly from their highs a few weeks ago, but we cannot just flip a switch and open everything up.

Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the move to allow non-essential businesses to offer curbside pickup is a step forward.

“All along, the governor has said this is going to be a phased in approach, and the fact that we’re starting to phase something in is optimistic,” she said.

She said retailers must now get creative and post pictures of their inventory on their websites.

“Businesses are going to be challenged in that they may not be able to put all of their inventory online for people to understand what they have in the store, but this is also a time when businesses need to be innovative," she said. "Every business model is going to be different on the other side of this pandemic.”

Murphy said Wednesday that he understands everyone is champing at the bit to get the economy moving but we are still in a war with COVID-19.

“We want to drive this sucker as hard as we can, and the less amount of congregation we have, the better,” he said.

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso and Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, all Republicans of Monmouth County, issued a joint statement  commending Murphy's latest order but said that more restrictions should be lifted before Memorial Day weekend.

“The data has shown that it’s time. We have said multiple times that our residents have overwhelmingly complied with quarantine and social distancing guidelines," the lawmakers said.

“However, our residents and businesses are at mental and economic breaking point. This first real step at reopening is what needs to be done. We know that residents and workers will continue to follow social distancing guidelines including the updated requirements that come with the Governor’s limited reopening.”

State Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, said the administration could be moving even quicker by reviewing detailed business reopening plans submitted to the Governor’s Office by business coalitions and individual industry groups that incorporate accepted social distancing practices.

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