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May 03, 2021

New Jersey to end most COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Memorial Day

A new public awareness campaign aims to boost the state's vaccination efforts

Government Coronavirus
New Jersey COVID-19 restrictions Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

Gov. Phil Murphy hinted last week that New Jersey would further reopen ahead of Memorial Day. With COVID-19 cases declining, he's removing most capacity limits.

New Jersey is moving full-speed ahead with its reopening plans. 

Most restrictions that were implemented at the height of the public health crisis will end May 19, including a wide range of capacity limits. The few remaining regulations mostly will apply to indoor spaces and gatherings.

Capacity limits will be eliminated for the following: 

•Indoor dining service at restaurants
•Gyms and fitness clubs
•Personal care businesses such as barbershops and nail salons
•Indoor and outdoor recreation businesses, including movie theaters, museums, casinos and amusement parks
•Indoor and outdoor pools

"These are the most aggressive steps we've taken to reopen to date and we are confident that we can do this safely because our numbers have trended decisively in the right direction over the past three weeks," Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. 

Restaurants will need to keep tables at least six feet apart unless physical barriers are in place. However, the eight-person limit per table no longer will apply.

The state's outdoor gatherings limit also will be lifted. The indoor limit will remain in place, but increase from 25 to 50 people. 

Indoor catered events, funerals, memorial services, performances, political events and commercial gatherings no longer will need to limit capacity based on a percentage. Instead, they will be restricted to a 250-person cap. That also will apply to conventions, expos, conferences and trade shows. 

Indoor capacity limits for large venues, defined as spaces with at least 1,000 fixed seats, will jump from 20% to 30%. 

Social distancing must be practiced at all times, Murphy said. Face masks must be worn indoors unless people are eating or drinking. They do not need to be worn outdoors unless people are unable to remain six feet apart. 

"We had been fully expecting to be able to take additional steps towards relaxed regulations as more people are vaccinated and the weather warms up and so long as all the vital metrics keep moving in the right directions as they have," Murphy said.

Murphy also moved up the state's timeline for easing capacity restrictions on several indoor and outdoor gatherings to Friday. They initially were set to take effect May 10. Among them:

•The outdoor gatherings limit will jump from 200 to 500 people before it is eliminated later this month.
•Capacity limits for private indoor events, like high school proms, weddings and funerals, will jump to 50% or 250 people, whichever number is less. 
•Outdoor sports and entertainment venues with at least 1,000 fixed seats will be permitted to begin operating at 50% occupancy, up from 30%. 

"We feel confident in moving up this timetable by three days given the accelerated progress we are seeing in our vaccination program, hospital metrics and lower daily case counts," Murphy said.

Bar seating also will be allowed to resume Friday, as long as social distancing measures are in place. The ban on buffets and self-service food at restaurants also will be lifted. 

New Jersey reported 1,077 new COVID-19 infections Monday, a 76% decline from one month ago. At that point, the daily case total was 4,433, Murphy said. The state recorded 1,424 hospitalizations, which marks a 65% decrease from the 2,191 hospitalizations one month ago. 

New Jersey's COVID-19 transmission rate also has plummeted to 0.37.

The reopening plans were coordinated alongside New York and Connecticut. New Jersey has worked together with both states on a number of issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

'Operation: Jersey Summer' campaign unveiled to help state meet COVID-19 vaccination goal

Residents who get their first COVID-19 vaccine doses in May can get a free beer at select breweries across New Jersey.

That's just one of several efforts the state is rolling out as part of a public awareness campaign, dubbed "Operation: Jersey Summer," to get more residents vaccinated. 

To receive their free beers, residents must present their vaccinations cards as proof at any of the 13 participating breweries listed in the tweet below.

The state's six mega vaccination sites are all now offering walk-in appointments to residents ages 16 and older. The sites also will be used to distribute more doses to community centers and medical offices, Murphy said. 

Additionally, an initiative aimed at religious communities, called "Grateful for the Shot," will allow people to get vaccinated after attending religious services.  

Murphy said the campaign is "pulling out all the stops" to make sure that New Jersey reaches its goal of having 4.7 million adults fully vaccinated by the end of June. 

At this point, the state is about 70% of the way to reaching that goal. More than 3.26 million residents are fully vaccinated, while over 7.4 million shots have been administered, according to the state

"Over the next eight weeks, we're going to be doing everything we can to make sure every New Jerseyan recognizes the vaccines in our toolbox are safe and effective," Murphy said. "We're gonna make sure they know how easy it is to get vaccinated. We're gonna do everything to make sure that everyone understands our ability to end this pandemic and to get our economy and communities back up and fully running again requires all of us to keep working together and getting vaccinated."

Murphy went as far as comparing the vaccine drive to the American efforts in World War II.

"We have been at war for the past 14 months with this virus," Murphy said. "And just as in that era, we are winning this war. But then and now, we're still losing too many of our comrades. So what this is, 'Operation: Jersey Summer,' this is our comprehensive effort to drop the hammer. It's time to take Berlin and put a stake into the heart of this virus. That is what this is about."

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