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NJ to mobilize National Guard in coronavirus fight, Gov. Murphy says

New Jersey National Guard (U.S. Air Force/Released)

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday he’s mobilizing New Jersey’s National Guard to assist in the state’s effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Murphy said during a news conference in Trenton that the Guard will “assist in our efforts in anyway necessary.”

He said that may include help with testing, distributing food to kids during school closings, and possibly converting buildings for self-quarantining.

Brig. Gen. Jemal Beale, the head of the state’s National Guard, said their “most likely missions” will be helping with logistics, transportation, traffic control, security, and using engineers to help bring any damaged facilities back online.

“Wish us luck,” Beale said. “And please wash your hands on a regular basis. And also practice social distancing.”

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The National Guard is a reserve military force that governors across the county commonly deploy during natural disasters and emergencies.

Murphy made the announcement as he outlined a number of new restrictions that will severely reshape life in New Jersey for the foreseeable future in the effort to mitigate the outbreak.

New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut announced it is ordering all of their movie theaters, casinos, and gyms to close indefinitely at 8 p.m. Monday and that restaurants will be allowed only to offer takeout and deliver after that time. No dining in will be allowed.

The governor also said he’s also ordering performing arts centers, night clubs, racetracks, fitness centers, and classes to close indefinitely at 8 p.m. Monday.

Murphy said all non-essential retail and entertainment businesses must close at 8 p.m. every day beginning Monday. They may remain open during daytime hours each day, as long as they keep their occupancy to 50 people and adhere to “social distancing” guidelines.

Supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices, and gas stations will remain open at normal hours, the governor said.

Meanwhile, Murphy announced all of New Jersey’s public and private schools — pre-K through 12, as well as colleges — will be ordered closed starting Wednesday.

And he said the state is “strongly discouraging” any non-essential travel in New Jersey from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. each day.

“We do not take any of these steps lightly,” Murphy said. “We know each comes with its own set of impacts on residents, on families, on communities, and on local businesses. But at this moment, our paramount concern must be to flatten the curve of new cases to not overload our health care system.”

“We need everyone, frankly, to stay home,” Murphy added. “There is no reason anyone should run the risk of infecting their friends, loved ones, or community.”

New Jersey has seen at least 178 coronavirus cases so far, including two deaths, officials said Monday — an increase of 80 cases compared to Sunday.

The virus — which causes the illness COVID-19 — has infected more than 179,000 people and killed more than 7,000 people across the globe, according to a running tally by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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© 2020 NJ Advance Media Group