PHILADELPHIA - New Jersey will lift all COVID-19 outdoor gathering limits and remove a 50% capacity limit on indoor restaurants and bars beginning on May 19 as long as social distancing can be maintained, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
Murphy said the state's positive coronavirus trends have enabled the state to make the change.
He also announced he signed an executive order which moved up the effective date of reopening steps to May 7.
Effective May 7, the outdoor gathering limit will increase to 500 individuals. Outdoor capacity for large venues will also move to 50% if they have 1,000 or more fixed seats.
The outdoor gathering limit will extend from 200 to 500. Large venue capacity will move to 50% up from 30% for a fixed seated space.
"This means that the events that we all associate with summer, from fireworks displays to parades to the state fair, can all go forward, as long as attendees keep 6 feet of distance," Murphy said.
New Jersey will increase the indoor dining limit to 50%. The prohibition on indoor bar-side seating will be lifted as well. They will also lift the prohibition on buffets and other such self-serve venues.
Dance floors would be permitted to open at such events, with masking and social distancing requirements in place. Dance floors would remain closed at bars and other related businesses, such as nightclubs.
"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," Gov. Murphy explained.
The next date for futher expansion so long as progress continues will be on May 19.
First, they anticipate removing all limits on outdoor gatherings so long as attendees all continue to social distance at six feet apart.
Secondly, they anticipate lifting the entire 50% capacity limit on indoor dining. Restaurants will be allowed to operate at whichever capacity allows them to remain socially distanced.
The current 50% capacity limits for indoor and outdoor businesses will be lifted as well. This would also encompass houses of worship.
The indoor gathering limits will be doubled from 25 to 50 people allowed. For catered events, which are currently limited will be scrapped so long as social distancing can be maintained.
For indoor capacities at large venues that can host more than 1,000 people, can operate at 30%.
"With our COVID-19 numbers, particularly hospitalizations, trending decisively in the right direction and our vaccination goals within reach, now is the time to take major steps to reopen our economy and loosen both indoor and outdoor gathering and capacity restrictions," said Gov. Murphy.
The changes come as positive COVID-19 tests over the last two weeks have fallen by more than 40%, and as the state vaccinates more people. So far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37% of the state's adult population has been fully vaccinated. That's higher than the 31.6% of the country overall.
Murphy has promised to get 70% of the adult population fully vaccinated by June 30. Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli has said the state would meet that goal.
The changes that go into effect on May 19 were done in coordination with New York and Connecticut, Murphy said. The relaxed requirements are contingent on the state's coronavirus figures not back sliding, he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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