Murphy Retightens Indoor Gathering Limit as NJ’s COVID-19 Transmission Rate Rises

New Jersey’s statewide COVID-19 rate of transmission rose to 1.48 over the weekend, which marks the highest rate of transmission since the beginning of April. Just two months ago, the state’s rate of transmission reached a low point of 0.70.

“We believe that some of this increase is attributable to a number of house parties that we have been seeing across the state,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “We can not be any clearer that indoor gatherings where social distancing isn’t practiced and masks aren’t worn simply aren’t safe.”

As a result, Murphy today signed an executive order that retightens the restrictions on indoor gatherings to 25% of a room’s capacity, with a maximum of 25 individuals.

The previous indoor gathering limit put in place by the governor allowed a maximum of 100 individuals to gather indoors.

Murphy added that the new limit will not apply to weddings, funerals, memorial services and religious and political activities protected under the first amendment. These gatherings will still be limited to 25% capacity, but can have a maximum of 100 individuals per the previous limitation.

“Until we begin to see the numbers of cases decrease and our rate of transmission drop appreciably over an extended period of time, these restrictions will remain in place,” Murphy said. “We expect local police to strictly enforce [these restrictions].

Murphy further warned some restaurants that have been allegedly attempting to serve customers indoors by merely opening their street front windows.

“To be clear, this is not allowed. Unless your restaurant has open sides that amount to at least two of your four outer walls, you can not seat or serve diners inside your premises,” he said. “We will look to local officials to enforce this restriction [as well].”

Murphy has also extended the state’s declaration of a public health emergency for an additional 30 days. 

“Over the past week we saw numbers of cases that we had not seen in eight weeks. Our rate of transmission is now more than double where it was just a few weeks ago. Everyone needs to get it together … and fast,” Murphy said. “[COVID-19] is not yet past us.”

Back-to-School Clarifications

Murphy today clarified that masks or face coverings will be required to be worn by all students at all times while inside a school building regardless of social distancing.

This comes as a tightening of the previous guidance, which only “strongly recommended” masks and face coverings be worn by students when social distancing was not practical.

Additionally, the Department of Education is sharing its checklist to ensure school district plans meet the set guidelines for reopening.

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