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Citing ‘Knucklehead Behavior' Gov. Murphy Delays Indoor Dining Indefinitely

Masks are required and store capacity is limited as indoor New Jersey malls reopen Monday. Diners will have to wait, however, to eat inside.

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What to Know

  • New Jersey’s indoor shopping malls have reopened from their COVID-19 pause.
  • Murphy on Monday, however, postponed the resumption of indoor dining, and banned drinking and smoking at Atlantic City’s casinos as they reopen this week, causing one casino, the Borgata, to scrap plans to reopen anytime soon. 
  • "Unfortunately the national scene compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home are requiring us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining for the foreseeable future," Murphy said.

Indoor shopping malls reopened from the COVID-19 shutdown on Monday, but indoor dining is going to have to wait over fears of a coronavirus surge.

"We had planned to loosen restrictions this week," Gov. Phil Murphy said at his Monday coronavirus news conference. "However, after COVID-19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely."

The pause also applies to indoor banquet halls, Murphy said.

“Unfortunately the national scene compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home are requiring us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining for the foreseeable future," he said. Asked about a time frame, the first-term Democrat replied, "I don’t think it’s a matter of days, but a matter of weeks. We have enormous sympathy but the alternative here is worse and unacceptable.”

Eateries were going to be allowed to reopen on Thursday with 25% capacity limits.

Murphy said the "carelessness" of few can ruin it for everyone and cause coronavirus surges. He expressed concern over people gathering around bars inside restaurants particularly.

"We will not tolerate outlier bars and restaurants – and, frankly, patrons – who think the rules don’t apply to them," Murphy said.

The news came just hours after New Jersey shopping malls resumed for indoor shopping.

Malls reopened in New Jersey on Monday as part of the state’s reopening plan. NBC10’s Cydney Long has the details.

Shoppers and workers have to wear face masks and shops are limited to 50% capacity. Food courts must remain closed, as well as theaters. Restaurants at malls can provide takeout or outdoor dining.

Shoppers at Cherry Hill Mall are being encouraged to remain 6 feet apart by posted signs. There are also no sit down areas as the gates went up on some stores Monday.

“Malls are part of New Jersey culture and lure,” the Murphy said while announcing the reopening plan earlier this month. “We want these businesses to get back up and running responsibly and safely.”

The reopening of malls comes as the state progresses through Stage 2, of three, of restarting from COVID-19 closures. So far, indoor retail has reopened, along with salons, barbershops and massage parlors.

Many more public places, including casinos, arcades, museums, libraries and amusement parks, can reopen later this week.

Murphy on Monday also banned drinking and smoking at Atlantic City's casinos as they reopen this week, causing one casino to scrap plans to reopen anytime soon.

Atlantic City's top-performing casino, the Borgata, dropped its plans to reopen soon. It had planned to hold an invitation-only “soft opening” on Thursday and open its doors to the general public starting July 6.

The Borgata's parent company, MGM Resorts International, said in a statement the conditions just aren't right for them to reopen.

“Our guests expect a special experience when they come to our property and if we cannot provide that level of hospitality, we feel it best that we remain closed until such time that the governor lets us know it is safe to offer food and beverage,” the company said. “The health and safety of our employees and guests are at the center of all that we do, and we regret that, at this time, we are unable to welcome back the thousands of employees who are anxious to return to work. We look forward to a time when it is safe to welcome everyone back.”

The Borgata was the first casino to react to Murphy's cancellation of indoor dining, and the Ocean Casino Resort said it planned to stick to its scheduled Thursday reopening. Executives at most other casinos said they were waiting for additional information from the state before announcing whether their reopening plans would need to be changed.

Murphy had a message for patrons and businesses about face coverings and other safety measures: "Selflessness, not selfishness."

As of Monday, New Jersey had more than 171,000 COVID-19 cases with 13,138 confirmed deaths from coronavirus-related complications. Another 1,854 people are believed to have died from COVID-19 complications.

The Garden State has slowly reopened as cases and hospitalizations have slowed over the past several weeks. But Murphy is fearful the virus will come back in New Jersey.

"For three months we pulled as one New Jersey family to at first flatten, and then bend down, the curves," Murphy said. "We cannot let up. We have to keep pulling together. We have to keep up with our commonsense practices."

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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