As the number of daily COVID-19 cases in New Jersey continues to fall, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, refuses to relax some of his strict social-distancing guidelines. Meanwhile, his state-run public transportation seems to be marching to its own beat.
Commuters in New Jersey are raising concerns as to why NJ Transit trains and buses are allowed to be filled up and ignore social distancing guidelines. Fox News obtained photos and videos from commuters on NJ Transit buses showing overcrowding and a lack of social distancing.
On each NJ Transit bus, the first two rows are chained off for the protection and social distancing from the driver. However, the rest of the passengers are jammed into the remaining seats, often times having to sit next to a stranger.
David Davila Ortiz is one of those NJ Transit passengers who has a concern about the overcrowded buses. He tweeted NJ Transit "should do more about social distancing."
Ortiz is not the only person frustrated with NJ Transit. A bus driver, who asked to remain anonymous for the safety of his job, told Fox News, "I do this as an operator and it’s out of control."
He expressed his concern, explaining, "I’m out on stress leave now because it got so bad and the company wasn’t doing anything about it. People smoking in the bathroom, the mask issue, overcrowding. No matter how much we tell [NJ Transit executives] they won’t listen."
Janette Nesheiwat, a board-certified family and medicine doctor, explained to Fox News, "Crowded buses and trains raise the risk of infection but you can easily protect yourself by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask."
A NJ transit commuter has similar concerns, "With increased ridership lately, I have been feeling very uncomfortable on the bus. There has been several times where I took myself off the bus because I didn’t feel safe with the proximity of the other passengers to myself.
"I believe social distancing and seating limitations should stay in effect, and even enforced by the drivers until the area’s population reaches herd immunity or a significant percentage of the population is vaccinated," the commuter continued.
Packed trains and buses has many commuters, doctors and even business owners around the state questioning Gov. Murphy’s strict COVID-19 restrictions. Several restaurant owners in the state have been left wondering why commuters can sit shoulder-to-shoulder on a bus, but they cannot open their business to 100% capacity.
Tom Fallon, co-owner of The Ivy League and The Chapter House in New Jersey, is one of those restaurant owners. When asked about his thoughts on the overcrowding of trains and buses, Fallon told Fox News, "It’s very frustrating. How is it OK to put all these people together, but you’re telling me that I can’t have two tables sitting less than 6 feet apart?"
He continued, "None of the rules to me make sense, especially when it contradicts what they do. When [Murphy] opened us up from 25% to 35% and now 50% it doesn’t do any restaurant any good, because most of us are at capacity with the 6-foot distance between tables."
Fallon said he was frustrated with the COVID-19 restrictions set forth by the governor, explaining, "It’s a political game. Listen, I know people who passed away from the disease, people that are still recovering after months from it, so I get it, and it’s real. You have to look at everything, there are people dying, not from the disease, but from mental health issues and I see it myself. I went through something during all of this. This game has to end."
In New Jersey, Gov. Murphy has restricted restaurants, tattoo parlors, salons, and more from opening to 100% capacity and has strict orders to ensure that social distancing measures are in effect in each of these businesses.
The governor has not responded to Fox News’ request as to why he is allowing NJ Transit to ignore his social-distancing guidelines while many businesses are suffering and closing due to the social distancing and capacity restrictions.