Pandemic over? These NJ government offices are still keeping out public
State offices have remained largely closed to the public, even as COVID-19 metrics continue to drastically improve.
And while people are taking off their masks at stores and restaurants, visitors to government buildings that are open to the public are largely expected to keep wearing them.
In some counties, many in-person services have resumed — with some exceptions.
Applying for passports, getting land records or probating wills are possible in person, though many require an appointment first.
Drivers doing business with the Motor Vehicle Commission have dealt with separate problems in the year since the pandemic unfolded. After months of day-long lines when those locations first re-opened, the MVC has pivoted to appointment only services in addition to online renewals.
Gov. Phil Murphy was asked about the discrepancy between the public and private sectors when it comes to the pandemic rules but did not directly answer the question, saying only that he understands there is "some amount of comfort" for some people to conduct business in person.
“I’d say largely in the sooner than later category,” Murphy said regarding state offices remaining closed to walk-in visitors.
The following is a look at the reopening status of several different counties around the state.
All Middlesex County services remain available to the public by appointment only, as of Wednesday, according to the county website. A request for more information was not immediately returned.
The Monmouth County Clerk’s Main Office, County Connection, and Archives Division are open to the public by appointment only. Face coverings are not required but are strongly suggested for individuals who have not been vaccinated, as of Wednesday.
All county offices have been reopened to the public since last June, according to Ocean County Administrator Carl Block.
Passports and probate services are by appointment, due to those offices being in close proximity to state-run court offices in the same building, he said.
Masks are optional for visitors to county offices. For state-run court offices and courtrooms, appointments and masks are required.
All county buildings have been reopened to the public, with appointments "not required but preferred" for county services, according to a county spokesperson. For anyone fully vaccinated, masks are optional, while masks are requested among individuals not vaccinated.
All county offices are open to the public, but most services are by appointment-only for things such as passports, notary and more, according to a county spokesperson, who said the county would be "fully opened to the public as of Tuesday, July 6."
The Mercer County Board of Commissioners has returned to in-person meetings on its regular meeting dates.
As for now, the public and employees are expected to wear masks while indoors in county facilities and when physical distance is not possible.
County offices have been open and staffed, with some services available in-person by appointment-only, while others continue on a remote or low/no contact basis.
The Union County Clerk’s passport office (at the county courthouse in Elizabeth) is open for in-person service, by appointment only. The office accepts applications and forwards them to the State Department for processing.
The Union County Surrogate, which handles probate services, was still operating on a remote-only basis as of Wednesday.
Two American Job Center offices (career/employment services) also continued to provide services remotely.
A spokesperson said that the county continued to follow CDC guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing. As of June, that remains masks optional for those who are vaccinated, while those unvaccinated against COVID are strongly encouraged to wear masks indoors.
County services remained open in person by appointment as of Wednesday. Passport application, notary and other business have been available at either the main office in Mount Holly or the County Store at Moorestown Mall.
Licensing Centers remain open by appointment only, with no walk-ins available as of Wednesday.
Most transactions can be done online or by appointment, as seen via the MVC’s “Cheat Sheet.”
There hasn’t been an MVC location closed since May 7, when the licensing center in Eatontown dealt with a COVID case, according to state Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Sue Fulton on Monday as quoted by the governor.