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November 16, 2020

New Jersey tightens indoor, outdoor gathering limits again as COVID-19 cases surge

The state has reported 14,556 new coronavirus infections during the last four days

Government COVID-19
new jersey indoor outdoor covid-19 Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

'We have to get back in front of this virus,' New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday as he announced the state is tightening restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings again.

New Jersey is hoping to mitigate the state's growing number of coronavirus infections by reinstituting stricter limits on the numbers of people who can gather indoors and outdoors.

No more than 10 people should get together in indoor settings, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday, and the maximum number of people gathering outdoors should be less than 150. The indoor restrictions take effect Tuesday, and the outdoor limits begin on Monday, Nov. 23.

There is an exception to the indoor restrictions for religious services, political events, weddings, funerals, and performances; those can take place indoors at 25% of a building's capacity or with fewer than 150 people — whichever number is less.

Indoor sports practices and competitions can exceed the 10-person limit, but only necessary individuals should be in attendance. That includes players, coaches, and referees. This will eliminate spectators from attending in most instances.

Social distancing guidelines still should be followed at outdoor events, and at events where social distancing is not possible, organizers must mandate that face masks be worn, Murphy said.

The changes comes as Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving.

"This will not be a normal Thanksgiving," Murphy said. "We know indoor gatherings in homes are particularly dangerous places for COVID-19 to spread. We're urging everyone to keep their plans as small as possible. The smaller the gathering, the less likely it is that someone is infected."

Since August, the indoor gatherings limit had been at 25 people or 25% of a room's capacity — whichever was less. The outdoor gatherings limit had been no more than 500 people since July.

Murphy began easing restrictions on outdoor gatherings in May when the capacity limit was raised from 10 to 25 people. After the state lifted its stay-at-home order in June, the governor increased the limit on outdoor gatherings from 25 to 100 people, and then eventually to 250 people

Murphy also permitted indoor gatherings to occur at 25% capacity or 50 people. He then doubled it to 100 people before scaling it back to 25 as COVID-19 cases began to spike later in the summer.

Murphy's executive order on Monday is just the latest action taken by the state to mitigate the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, restaurants and bars in New Jersey were ordered to stop indoor dining service between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Bar seating is also now prohibited across the state. The measure also impacts clubs, lounges, and casinos. 

Additionally, all out-of-state travel for New Jersey youth and high school sports teams, to events that take place indoors, is prohibited.

New Jersey recorded 2,232 new coronavirus infections on Monday, increasing the statewide total to 281,493. In the last four days, the state has reported 14,556 COVID-19 patients, which is roughly 5% of its total number of infections. 

On Sunday, New Jersey tallied 4,540 new coronavirus cases, the state's highest daily number of additional COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.

"We have to get back in front of this virus," Murphy said.

The state has had 14,779 lab-confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 since the public health crisis began in March.

Until a coronavirus vaccine becomes widely available, Murphy urged residents to continue practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings to mitigate the spread of the disease.

"Let's all get back in the game like we were in the spring," Murphy said. "I know this has been a very long haul, but we still have more miles to go. We can do this."

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