Taking cues from neighboring states like New York and Connecticut, Gov. Phil Murphy announced today the easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on New Jersey businesses, gatherings and venues, given the state’s significant progress in vaccinations and sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The reopening steps, which will begin May 19, include the lifting of capacity limits in restaurants and retail shops, so long as they adhere to the CDC-based restrictions of six feet of distance between individuals/parties. In addition, starting on May 7, New Jersey will lift the prohibition on indoor bar-side seating as well as buffets and other self-service foods at restaurants.
“These are the most aggressive steps we have taken to reopen to date, and we are confident we can do this safely because our numbers have trended decisively in the right direction over the past three weeks, and we have made these decisions based on our public health metrics, and not on politics,” Murphy said.
Murphy also increased the limit on outdoor gatherings to 500; increased indoor room capacities to 50% with a maximum of 250 for political gatherings, weddings, funerals and similar events; and increased private catered events and outdoor capacity for large venues to 50%. All of those advancements will take place on May 7, three days prior to their previously scheduled May 10 date.
“We feel confident in moving up this timetable by three days, given the accelerated progress we are seeing in our vaccination program and hospital metrics and lower daily case counts,” Murphy said. “We have been fully expecting to be able to take additional steps to relax regulations as more people are vaccinated and the weather warms up, as long as all vital metrics keep moving along as they have.”
In coordination with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Murphy also said he is lifting limits on other indoor businesses currently governed by a percentage-based cap; and extending attendance at private home gatherings from 25 to 50 people.
On a parallel track, Murphy said his administration is going to “put into overdrive” efforts to meet a goal of 4.7 million fully vaccinated New Jerseyans by the end of June. Over the weekend, the state announced that more than 3.25 million residents have been fully vaccinated, while also reporting a marked decline in new COVID-19 cases to 1,077 from 4,433 a month ago.
To reach this vaccination target, Murphy talked about reaching out to those “still on the fence” through Operation: Jersey Summer, which includes a comprehensive multimedia vaccine awareness campaign; walk-in vaccine appointments; a hub and spoke model for mega-sites to move available doses directly into neighboring community centers and medical offices; “boots on the ground” safely knocking on doors reaching out to residents with information and resources; and other measures.
“We are pulling out all the stops, unlike any other American state, to bring the rest of New Jersey along,” he said.
Also noteworthy is that New Jersey’s schools continue to transition from remote to more in-person learning. There are now 285 districts open for all in-person instruction; 459 districts open for a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction; 50 districts using a combination across buildings; and just 17 districts remaining on all-remote learning.
“This means 89.7% of our kids are in some form of in-person instruction, and we have every reason to believe that will continue to climb,” Murphy said.
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