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February 22, 2021

New Jersey to permit some fans at sports stadiums, entertainment venues

Gov. Phil Murphy eases capacity limits on religious services too

Government Coronavirus
New Jersey indoor capacity limits Ed Mulholland/USA Today Sports

New Jersey is allowing a limited number of fans to attend professional sporting events beginning March 1, 2021. Above, the New Jersey Devils play the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center earlier this year.

New Jersey is relaxing various capacity limits affecting sporting games, entertainment events and religious services as COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations continue to drop. 

Sports and entertainment venues with fixed seating capacities of at least 5,000 people will be permitted to allow spectators to events. Indoor venues cannot exceed 10% capacity. Outdoor venues are limited to 15% capacity. 

Face masks will be required except when eating or drinking and spectators must practice social distancing at all times.

The relaxed restrictions take effect at 6 a.m. Monday — almost a year after these venues were forced to shut their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike Pennsylvania, New Jersey did not allow fans to return during the fall. 

"One reason we can take this step is because fixed seating means that spectators are largely confined to their seats, which minimizes congregating," Gov. Phil Murphy said. "And should the numbers we track everyday continue to go down, we hope and expect to be able to continue to raise these capacity limits as we approach the summer and fall."

All collegiate athletes will be permitted to have two parents or guardians in attendance, effective immediately, though the number of spectators at indoor competitions cannot exceed the state's indoor capacity limit of 35% or 150 people, whichever number is less.

Spectators at outdoor collegiate events must maintain social distancing. They must wear masks at all times at indoor events. Collegiate conferences retain the right to impose stricter occupancy limits.

Earlier this month, New Jersey allowed a limited number of spectators to attend youth and high school sporting events. That change has gone successfully so far and helped prompt the relaxed capacity limits at collegiate sporting events, Murphy said. 

"We've seen this step implemented responsibly and believe we can expand it as our collegiate sports move into the spring season," Murphy said.

Religious services now can operate at 50% capacity, as long as attendees wear face masks and practice social distancing. Faith leaders are permitted to limit services to smaller occupancy numbers if they so choose.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have strived to accommodate our communities of faith to the greatest extent possible," Murphy said. "We know that, for many of our residents, the ability to worship together plays a central role in well-being and mental health."

The relaxation of capacity restrictions comes as several public health metrics continue to trend in a positive direction.

The rate of COVID-19 transmission in New Jersey remains at 0.86. Anything below 1 means that the spread of the virus is slowing. Additionally, COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by over 46% since peaking in mid-January.

Murphy urged residents to continue complying with the state's COVID-19 health and safety measures.

"Even though we're continuing to see good trends in our numbers, we cannot let up one bit," Murphy said. "Keep doing all you're doing to fight and defeat this virus. We're going to get there."

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