May 22, 2020
Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, New Jersey officials said it is okay for larger groups of people than previously had been allowed to gather in outdoor social settings.
The number has increased from 10 people up to 25 people, so long as these gatherings take place outside and participants still practice social distancing from one another, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday during his daily COVID-19 briefing.
Murphy thanked New Jersey's residents, and said the larger gatherings were made possible by citizens following social distancing orders, which has slowed the spread of the coronavirus.
"I am proud that we are able to take this step today to add a little more hope and optimism to the unofficial start of summer," the governor said.
The change took effect immediately Friday. It allows for outdoor church services and fitness classes in addition to recreational activities like driving ranges, outdoor batting cages and charter fishing boat trips.
State officials continue to recommend that even at outdoor gatherings that there be clear demarcations to demonstrate to guests proper social distance. Murphy emphasized that new rules does not apply to outdoor dining or outdoor graduations, and that indoor gatherings must still limited to 10 individuals.
Murphy also officially opened all campgrounds, both public and private, across the state on Friday.
New Jersey had 1,394 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the state's total to 152,719. There were 146 more fatalities, making the state's death toll from the coronavirus 10,985.
Murphy also announced a new stream of funding for New Jersey's public universities and colleges.
A total of $68.8 million in federal funds from the CARES Act funds will be available to these state schools to help the them continue to provide educational services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Murphy said that the grant will help with COVID-related expenses.
Funding from the U.S. Department of Education through the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund gave states flexibility through an about how best use the money to meet the needs of students, schools, postsecondary institutions and other education-related organizations in states.
Given the financial burdens that colleges are facing due to the unprecedented public health emergency, Murphy is focusing the GEER funds on New Jersey postsecondary institutions.
"This will help cover the expenses incurred in attempting to continue providing additional assistance to their students," Murphy said.