NORTH BRUNSWICK, New Jersey–Starbucks locations in central New Jersey are slowly reopening after almost two months being closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. New Jersey is on indefinite lockdown, with no end date currently in sight.

“We gotta do it right,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press briefing on May 4. “We’ve got to do it responsibly, we’ve got to do it safely, and we are committed to that […]  frankly, whether you like that or not.”

An official statement from Starbucks was released on March 20 stating that American and Canadian dine-in cafés would close officially for two weeks.

Instead, they would only offer drive-through and delivery options via services like the Starbucks app and Uber Eats. However, a majority of central New Jersey locations have closed their shops altogether. 

The town of North Brunswick’s main shop closed on March 31, and reopened April 14 with modified hour windows that are expected to grow wider as time passes, allowing them to slowly return to regular hours.  

Drive-through lines can be seen wrapped around the parking lot most hours of the day, as customers rush to get the caffeine fix they have been deprived of since last month.

The shop’s manager said “it depends” how quickly adjacent town locations would also begin to reopen.

“Everything is determined by a store-to-store basis,” the manager, who preferred not to be named, told Scriberr News. “Most of the stores with drive-throughs are opening little by little because they keep the point of contact down.”

“We’re wearing masks and gloves at every register though, and we only schedule a couple of people per shift,” the manager added.

The manager said their main focus health-wise “is to keep the minimal amount of contact possible; from handing food and drinks to customers, to interacting with each other as employees,” she said, in reference to the safety measures they take in accordance to Starbucks’ policy. 

In attempts to keep morale up and spirits high among her team during this difficult time, she said, “we try to remain positive. We’re all pretty positive people, so when we come in we just focus on working and doing the best we can.”

But some of the employees at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital’s Starbucks in North Brunswick’s adjacent town, New Brunswick, had a different opinion. The shop inside of the hospital has remained open since the beginning of the pandemic in order to serve hospital workers and first responders. 

“The rise in cases is slowing down for now but I don’t think we should get comfortable. I’m afraid of what’s to come, since public places are going to be reopening soon. The weather is getting warm and people are going to get restless and want to be outside,” a hospital barista told Scriberr News, raising concerns about the number of cases within Middlesex County, where the Brunswick towns are located. 

With over 13,000 county cases to date in Middlesex, she worries for the future as the state begins to reopen, only six weeks after Gov. Murphy issued a stay-at-home order on March 21.

On April 29, Gov. Murphy signed off on Executive Order No. 133, that allowed state parks and golf courses to reopen on May 2 with conditions, while they continue to deliberate over whether public beaches and county parks should follow suit. 

During a coronavirus news conference, Murphy said he made the decision to reopen on his own, despite the pressure from political rallies and allies, based on the positive data surrounding the outbreak. 

However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) director Robert Redfield advised against the lift of stay-at-home orders so soon in a video interview with the Washington Post. Redfield warned of the dangers of a second wave of the coronavirus, which if combined with the flu season this winter, would likely overwhelm America’s healthcare systems and hospitals entirely.  

As desires to return to normalcy fill the hearts and minds of Americans, Redfield continues to push for social distancing and protective measures, along with additional testing to identify and treat the infected sooner rather than later. 

In the meantime, the CDC has created a guide for a steady and safe reopening of the country, which includes timelines for each phase and a detailed plan of action. 

Scriberr News reached out to New Jersey council members Carlo Socio, William Lopez and Claribel Cortes, but they did not respond immediately to our request for comment.

Written ByYayonah Bangura

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