NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy eased up on more restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown that began in March 2020.
“I am signing an executive order today moving up the steps announced last week to May 7. We feel confident in moving it up by three days.,” the governor said.
The most recent announcement covered indoor dining which is currently limited to 50%, with no limit on the number of outdoor diners a restaurant can accommodate. Indoor religious services are also capped to 50% of a venue’s capacity.
The announcement comes just in time for proms, graduations, weddings and other gatherings with indoor gathering totals increasing to 50 percent with a 250-maximum that originally was to start on May 10. Other events include funerals, memorial services, performances and political events as well as privately catered events. By May 19 that restriction “will be scrapped” provided certain restrictions are in place.
Outdoor gatherings will see limits jump on May 7 from 200 to 500 which the governor hopes can soon be increased “substantially” before Memorial Day weekend.
The good news for prom attendees is that dance floors will be permitted to open at private catered events so long as masks are worn and that social distancing remains in place.
Last week the governor stated that he was not expanding restaurant capacity but he hoped to soon. That has changed. As of May 19, restaurants and bars are operating at a 50% capacity for indoor dining and there are no numeric capacity limits for outdoor dining. Tables will be able to be closer than six feet if proper safety screens are in place.
In that same time frame, bar seating will now be lifted only while properly socially distanced. There is no limit on the number of outdoor diners that a restaurant can have.
There is a 50% capacity restriction for indoor religious services of a given venue. The next date for further expansion, May 19 will see outdoor gathering restrictions removed though retaining masks and keeping six feet of distance.
“So long as we don’t see a backslide in the metrics. I think we will hit this May 19 target date with a bullseye,” Governor Murphy said. “We have made these decisions based on public health metrics and not politics.”
He continued to urge residents to get their vaccinations. Murphy wants to see those unvaccinated to get their shots in the arm by sometime in June. “We have created a multi media campaign.”
Murphy spoke of “Operation Jersey Summer” that is “pulling out all the stops to bring all of New Jersey along with walk-in hours for the state’s mega vaccination sites.” He noted that previously, appointment times and long lines were a discouraging factor for some and were in conflict with work hours to get vaccinations. “Walk up hours eliminate those roadblocks.”
Underserved communities will see volunteers knocking on doors regarding providing information concerning vaccinations and the need to have them. A targeted e-mail program for those who signed up for e-mail updates will also be maintained, according to the governor.
“Grateful for the Shot” is a program the governor announced that would call for those attending religious services to go directly to a vaccination site.
“Shot and Beer” is a campaign where recipients of their second shot would present their vaccination card to a participating brewery and receive a free beer.
“Your Voice Your Shot” is a video contest saying why you decided to be vaccinated covid-19.nj.gov/yourvoice
Comparing the pandemic to World War II, New Jersey has been at war with the pandemic for 14 months. Operation Jersey Summer is designed “to drop the hammer, take Berlin and drop a stake into the heart of this virus,” Murphy added.
Murphy’s announcement calls for New Jersey’s reopening to be incremental. He spoke about the approach that would be taken to handle this around the state. Over 8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout the Garden State and more than 30 percent of New Jersey’s population are fully vaccinated.
The rate of transmission is at 0.63 and recently hit its lowest number since the start of the coronavirus. The rate considered at uncontrolled community spread is 1.0 with every infected person spreading the virus to at least one other person.