As New Jersey entered Stage 2 of its reopening today – with restaurants permitted to offer outdoor dining services, and retail establishments allowed to have customers indoors at limited capacities – Gov. Phil Murphy said at today’s COVID-19 press conference that the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control has thus far issued 646 associated outdoor liquor license permits.
“Restaurants’ hours for outdoor dining are not limited by any state order,” Murphy added, quelling what appeared to be rumors to the contrary. He stressed, “There’s no restriction, from the state at least. Stay open and enjoy.”
And while Murphy has not always offered clear rationales regarding the rules and regulations he has placed on the business community, he did tell the audience today that, overall, outdoor activities have been shown to be less dangerous for virus transmission than indoor activities, and, additionally, that face coverings help in reducing the virus’ transmission.
“This is why our restart has begun by allowing nearly every type of outdoor activity to resume,” he said. “It is why, as we gradually restart indoor activities, we are being very strict in requiring face coverings, whether it is in a retail shop or a house of worship, or – next week – when our personal care businesses may reopen.”
Murphy added, “Indoor environments, where it is challenging to wear masks such as gyms, or where customers are sedentary for long periods of time such as restaurants, remain the most dangerous in terms of transmission. We will get there, but we will get there based on data and health metrics.”
Of note, Murphy did not appear to specify what data/health metrics would be required for gyms and restaurants to eventually open.
Murphy additionally clarified today that office workers who can work from home should continue to do so, saying, “We know that businesses are eager to have their employees back at their desks, but these indoor environments pose the same problem as any other. For the time being, all employees who can work from home: We want to ask you to remain on the work-from-home status.”
This is in tandem with a statement sent to media the night of June 9: “Paragraph 2 of Executive Order No. 107, which requires New Jersey residents to remain home with limited exceptions, is formally rescinded. The other provisions of that Order, including the requirement that businesses or non-profits accommodate their workforce for telework or work-from-home arrangements, wherever practicable, are still in effect.”
Murphy also said today that organized sports would be resuming in stages, and that the New Jersey Department of Health has finalized guidance for the resumption of organized sports next Monday, June 22.
The Department of Health is categorizing sports as either low, medium or high risk, based on guidance from the National Federation of State High School Associations, Murphy said.
Low-risk sports including, for example, golf and tennis, may resume competition on June 22, while medium-risk sports such as baseball, softball, soccer and outdoor basketball will be “limited to non-contact drills and practices only,” Murphy said, with medium-risk sports competition to resume on July 6.
Non-contact drills and practices can resume June 22, for high-risk sports such as football; Murphy said he hopes full practices and competitions can resume July 20.
On the topic of sports, Murphy concluded, “Across the board, all sports will have to abide by a number of health and safety protocols, including screenings for athletes, coaches and staff, limited equipment sharing, and strong requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing equipment. Activities under the oversight of the either the NJSIAA or NCAA must abide by those associations’ rules.
“However, all competitions or tournaments must abide by our limit on outdoor gatherings which is currently 100 people, but is expected to be at 250 by a week from today, and 500 people by July 3.”
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