The liberal advocacy organization whose report on a coronavirus exit plan has been anticipated by Gov. Phil Murphy suggests that states maintain stay-at-home orders at least through May 20.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the Center for American Progress team “is outstanding” and that he had seen its recommendation that all states enforce stay-home orders for 45 days from April 5. He said he does not yet know if New Jersey’s closure will be that long – or even longer.

“Broadly sympathetic with the long sort of six and a half weeks of stay at home,” Murphy said. “We’re already into this – we were among the earlier states to get into this. I wish I could say that means we’ll get out of it sooner. That would be nice, and I hope that’s the case. But I can’t commit to that today.”

Topher Spiro, vice president of health policy for the Center for American Progress, said the purpose of the report issued Friday was to encourage public officials to adopt a plan to gradually reopen the economy so residents “know that there’s an end in sight and a plan that will work.”

“It should be guided by conditions on the ground, so there should not be an arbitrary deadline. It has to be connected to markers or measures related to transmission,” Spiro said. “… If a state is able to really drive down transmission, that may warrant an exception, but in general we think that that’s the right approximate time frame.”

Murphy ordered all New Jersey schools closed effective March 18, though most had shuttered days earlier than that. He issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 21 and directed non-essential businesses to close. It isn’t known when either will be lifted.

Spiro said it would be helpful for people to know that.

“We think it’s important to lay out a time frame for the general public, so that there’s a little bit more certainty about how long this period is going to last,” Spiro said. “Much easier in terms of psychology to tell yourself, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this for another 45 days’ than to have an indefinite period.”

Murphy said it’s not possible yet to be definite about that. He said more guidance about schools will be available by April 17 but that with each passing days, ceremonies and gatherings become less likely.

“We are, as we sit here today, until further notice,” Murphy said. “I’m not smart enough to know today on April 6 whether or not that date is early, late or in the middle of this. But I do know that we’re going to be up against it at least between now and then. What it looks like then I don’t know.”

He said it won’t be soon after the apex of the infection curve is reached.

“It will be several weeks beyond that, at least, as we ride that downward curve,” Murphy said. “So we all have to stay disciplined and remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Spiro said people need to stay at home to prevent a second coronavirus surge.

“We want to make sure that the period is long enough and that we’re cautious about it so that we don’t risk a resurgence and so that it doesn’t come roaring back in the fall,” Spiro said.

Spiro said systems and programs, such as mass surveillance testing and contact tracing to isolate people who were in close proximity to a positive case, will have to be in place for the fall “because there will be little outbreaks or sparks occasionally until we have reached herd immunity through mass vaccination.”

CAP’s report also says restrictions on large gatherings and mass transit should remain until herd immunity is achieved.

“You have to have time to put in place testing and isolation measures whenever any of these outbreaks flare up, so that we don’t have a second wave of infections which would necessitate a second shutdown,” he said.

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