Because of the job its residents have done getting the pandemic under control, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Monday he was able to announce sweeping revisions to the state's reopening timetable, with many adjustments set to take place prior to this coming weekend.
"We do have some significant announcements. So first up, I'm signing an executive order today moving up the effective date of the reopening steps that we announced last Monday, which were to have taken an effect one week from today, on May 10," Murphy said. "They are all moved up to this Friday, May 7."
Those moves include:
- increasing outdoor gathering limits to 500 individuals
- upping indoor room capacity to 50%
- upping gathering limits for political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and performances to 250 individuals
- large outdoor gatherings at venues seating 1,000 individuals or more increase to 50% capacity
- reopening dance floors for private, catered events
That last point being of particular note, Murphy said, because there's been a vocal cry for easing from students looking to close out their year on a high note.
"That includes proms and for those of you who are having your prom this weekend, let it be said that we heard you," Murphy said.
Additionally, on Friday, May 7th, will mark the end of a prohibition on indoor bar-side seating, so long as establishments are prepared to maintain social distancing protocols. Buffets and self-service food establishments will also be permitted to reopen May 7th.
Then, on Wednesday, May 19th, even more restrictions are lifted, so long as there are no significant metric changes from present day to that date. Outdoor gathering restrictions will be lifted completely, so long as venues are able to maintain safety protocols.
"This means that the events that we all associate with a summer--from fireworks displays to parades to the state fair--can all go forward, as long as attendees are keeping six feet of distance," Murphy said.
Restaurants will also see the 50% capacity limit lifted in that window, and be restricted only to whatever capacity ensures patrons maintain appropriate distance. There will also no longer be a restriction on the number of people at a given table.
Those same lifted restrictions will apply to religious services, retail establishments, casinos, gyms and fitness clubs, personal care businesses, indoor and outdoor pools, and outdoor amusement and recreation businesses. They will no longer be governed by a capacity percentage restriction, but only by the guidelines for maintaining appropriate distancing.
Catered events, funerals, memorial services, performances, and political activities will ceased to have percentage-based caps, but will max out at 250 individuals pending social distancing adherence. Purely social indoor events will see capacity doubled from 25 to 50 people. Indoor conferences and expos which would normally accommodate 1,000 or more people will be permitted to operate at 30% capacity.
"These are the most aggressive steps we have taken to reopen to date, and we feel confident that we can do this safely because our numbers have trended decisively in the right direction," Murphy said. "We have made these decisions based on our public health metrics, and not on politics. And while our COVID numbers are going down, there was one thing we could do above all else to ensure that these numbers keep going down, especially as we reopen further, and that is to get vaccinated."
Murphy said Operation Jersey Summer is looking to get 4.7 million New Jerseyans vaccinated by the end of June, with 3 million vaccinated already, and to aid that effort, each of the state's six mega sites are opening up to walkup hours for vaccination with no appointment necessary.
"I want to put this in a context of 1945. We have been at war for the past 14 months with this virus. And just as in that era, we are winning this war. But then and now, we're still losing too many of our comrades," Murphy said. "So what this is--Operation Jersey Summer--this is our comprehensive effort, again unlike any effort in any other American state, to drop the hammer. It's time to take Berlin, and put a stake into the heart of this virus, and that is what this is about."
To aid in that operation, New Jersey has also introduced it's Shot and a Beer campaign, where those (of age) who bring in a vaccination card showing a shot was received in the month of May to the following breweries receive a free beer:
- Battle River Brewing
- Bradley Beer Project
- Bolero Snort Brewing Company
- Brix City Brewing Company
- Carton Brewing Company
- Flounder Brewing Company
- Flying Fish Brewing Company
- Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant
- Hackensack Brewing Company
- Kane Brewing Company
- Little Dog Brewing Company
- Magnify Brewing Company
- River Horse Brewing Company