NJ Restaurants, Gyms and Other Establishments Can Increase to 50% Capacity Next Week

PLUS: $108M in FEMA Funds for Vaccine Distribution

Gov. Phil Murphy announced today that restaurants, personal care, and recreation and amusement businesses can increase their indoor customer capacity limits to 50% on March 19. These businesses were previously limited to 35% indoor capacity for customers per the governor’s previous mandate for the past five weeks.

Aside from restaurants, this announcement applies to personal care businesses such as barber shops and salons, recreation businesses such as gyms and fitness clubs, and amusement businesses such as casinos.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced today that New York City will expand its indoor dining capacity to 50%, which follows his previous announcement that New York State restaurants will have their capacity limit increased to 75%, also on March 19. New York City restaurants are currently operating at the same 35% capacity limit that New Jersey’s are, while the rest of New York State has been operating at 50% capacity.

Additionally, Murphy said that indoor gatherings in New Jersey that were previously limited to 10 individuals will now instead be capped at 25 individuals, and outdoor gatherings that were previously limited to 25 individuals will have their limits increased to 50.

“We feel confident in these steps given the data that we have been seeing over the past five weeks,” Murphy said. “For example, on February 5, when our restaurant capacity limit last changed, our hospitals were treating just under 2,900 patients. That number has come down by about 1,000 and has been consistent since then.”

“Today’s announcement by Governor Murphy is another good step in the right direction, as we have seen a relaxation of capacity restrictions in many states throughout the nation,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) President and CEO Michele Siekerka said in a statement. “However, New Jersey still trails many states, including those in our region, in terms of capacity limits. Obviously, we hope that increases in occupancy occur with urgency as data dictates, because we know our businesses need all the help they can get.”

Murphy reiterated that the state’s mask mandate will remain in effect, and urged residents to stay vigilant when gathering for activities amid the nicer weather.

$108M in FEMA Funds for Vaccine Distribution

Separately today, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker announced nearly $108 million in federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to boost the New Jersey Department of Health’s (NJDOH) vaccine distribution efforts. 

“This funding will help ensure vaccines are distributed far and wide across New Jersey,” Menendez said. “As more New Jerseyans receive their vaccines, the closer we come to fully and safely reopening our schools, restaurants and businesses. The end of the pandemic is in sight, but we can’t let up our efforts yet. We must continue wearing masks and social distancing. And I encourage everyone to sign up for a vaccine appointment as soon as they are eligible.”

As of today, more than 2.6 million total vaccine doses have been administered in New Jersey.

“While we have made headway in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, we must remain vigilant in our response to this crisis,” Booker said. “This federal funding is critical to ensuring our state can distribute the vaccine efficiently in order to protect the health and safety of all New Jerseyans.”

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