Murphy signs order to ease COVID restrictions in New Jersey

(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an order to ease COVID-19 restrictions in the Garden State, including eliminating the outdoor gathering limit.

Executive Order No. 239 also removes percentage-based capacity limits for houses of worship and indoor and outdoor businesses. It also includes an increased capacity for large indoor venues and lifts the prohibition on indoor interstate youth sports competitions.

The changes take effect May 19.

“Throughout the pandemic, data and public health needs have guided the hard decisions we’ve made on COVID-19 restrictions,” Murphy said in a news release. “With COVID-19 metrics trending in the right direction amidst substantial progress on our COVID-19 vaccination program, we can move forward with these significant steps towards a return to normalcy.”

Murphy’s order removes the 50% limitation for restaurants, but it maintains the six-foot required distance between tables. Restaurants can place tables closer if they use partitions that comply with Department of Health (DOH) requirements.

Under the order, indoor gatherings in private residences are capped at 50 people, increasing from a limit of 25 people. In addition, commercial gatherings, such as conferences, must adhere to the 250-person indoor gathering limit for catered events, but attendees must remain six feet apart.

“For the first time in over six months, our number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 has fallen below 1,000,” Murphy said on Twitter. “With our numbers trending in the right direction, we can continue fighting back against this virus if we all get vaccinated.”

Existing mask mandates and social distancing guidelines for outdoor events will remain in place. On Thursday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said fully vaccinated people “can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws,” according to a tweet.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Westfield, wants Murphy to follow the CDC’s updated guidance.

“The governor says we need to follow the science,” Bramnick said in a statement. “The science tells us that it is safe to end social distancing and masking requirements for fully vaccinated people. Governor Murphy should immediately follow the guidance from the leading public health agency in the nation.”

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