New Jersey Governor Unveils Reopening Plan, Atlantic City Continues to See Coronavirus Increase

Posted on: April 28, 2020, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: April 28, 2020, 10:38h.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) unveiled his six-point “Road Back” plan this week to reopen the state. But Atlantic City continues to see a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.

New Jersey Atlantic City coronavirus
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has paved a recovery plan for the Garden State. (Image: Chris Pedota/AP)

Atlantic County, home to the East Coast gaming mecca, has 749 positive coronavirus cases, and the disease is responsible for 30 deaths. Concerning is that 111 of the positive tests have come in the past 24 hours.

In Murphy’s “Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health,” the first of six principles in lifting restrictions is demonstrating “sustained reductions in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.” That doesn’t bode well for the county home to nine casinos, all of which have been closed since mid-March.

For the first time since New Jersey legalized gambling in Atlantic City in 1976 and the first venue opened two years later, not a single dollar in an entire month will be gambled inside a brick-and-mortar casino.

Thousands Unemployed

Statewide, New Jersey has 111,188 positive coronavirus results, and the disease has been cited for 6,044 deaths. That trails only New York.

While Murphy has detailed how the state will proceed in reopening nonessential business, he’s committed to erring on the side of caution.

Let me repeat a basic truth, until we give the public confidence that they should not be fearful, we cannot take further steps,” Murphy declared. “A plan that is needlessly rushed is a plan that will needlessly fail. As we travel this road, we will ensure that every community is along with us.”

Atlantic City casinos have laid off or furloughed their workers. According to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the nine properties employed 26,450 people as of March 1. Nearly three in four (19,652) are full-time employees.

Borgata is by far the largest single casino employer, the MGM Resorts property in the Marina District accounting for 21 percent (5,562) of the total Atlantic City gaming industry workforce. Caesars Entertainment, however, is the overall largest employer, as the company owns three properties – Caesars (2,521 workers), Bally’s (2,041), and Harrah’s (3,091).

New Jersey has received more than 850,000 unemployment claims in the past five weeks.

Long Road Back

Atlantic City’s reopening seems distant at the moment. Its host county doesn’t currently meet the first of Murphy’s six principles.

Road Back Plan:

  • Principle 1: Demonstrate sustained reductions in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations
  • Principle 2: Expand testing capacity
  • Principle 3: Implement robust contact tracing
  • Principle 4: Secure safe places and resources for isolation and quarantine
  • Principle 5: Execute a responsible economic restart
  • Principle 6: Ensure New Jersey’s resiliency

It’s only in principle No. 5 that New Jersey businesses that are not deemed essential will be allowed to reopen. During that fifth step, Murphy says he will create the “Restart and Recovery Commission” to advise on the reopening process.

The agency will be tasked with planning “for a methodical and strategic return to work based on level of disease transmission risk and essential classification.”