New Jersey

NJ Drops COVID Capacity Percentages on Restaurants, Gyms, Other Businesses

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What to Know

  • New Jersey is easing many COVID restrictions both indoors and outside as daily coronavirus cases have been trending downward and the state gets closer to its vaccine goal.
  • Most capacity limits on restaurant, gyms, houses of worship and retail businesses were lifted Wednesday.
  • Masks must still be worn indoors in public places and some social distancing requirements remain in place.

New Jersey restaurants, gyms, pools and other businesses can once again allow full capacity inside, with certain restrictions -- like masking -- still in place.

The Garden State took a big step in its reopening process after more than a year of coronavirus-related restrictions on Wednesday, May 19. Percentage-based capacity limits are going away in many public places.

However, masking indoors remains part of New Jersey's coronavirus mitigation efforts, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance on full vaccinated people being able to remove masks in many situations.

The cap on outdoor gatherings lifted, but social distancing requirements remained in place.

“This means that the events that we all associate with summer, from fireworks displays to parades to the state fair, can all go forward, as long as attendees keep 6 feet of distance,” Gov. Phil Murphy said when announcing the changes earlier this month.

Here is what to expect at Garden State businesses now.

COVID Restrictions Lifting, Changing on Wednesday

  • The outdoor gathering limit has been lifted. People must continue to remain distanced from each other.
  • The 50% capacity limit on indoor dining was removed. Groups must still be seated at least 6 feet apart. The prohibition on tables of eight people or more was removed.
  • The 50% capacity for indoor and outdoor businesses was lifted. Religious services, retail establishments, gyms and fitness clubs, personal care businesses, indoor and outdoor amusement and recreational businesses, and indoor and outdoor pools are among those places that are no longer capped as long as there is 6 feet of distance between people and groups, Murphy said. Religious services are capped at 250 people, according to the state.
  • Indoor capacity for large venues -- with 1,000 or more fixed seats -- can increase to 30% as long as there is 6 feet between ticketed groups.
  • The general indoor gathering limit increased from 25 to 50 people for events like birthday parties.
  • The indoor gathering limit for catered events, funerals or memorial services, performances, political activities and commercial gatherings can increase to 250 people without a percentage cap. Indoor conferences, expos and trade shows will also be capped at 250 people.
  • Removal of ban on indoor interstate youth sports competitions. Athletes, staff, and spectators will still need to abide by all existing health and safety requirements.

More people are being allowed into places, but the masks must still be worn indoors.

On Monday, Murphy reiterated that masks must still be worn by all people indoors in public places, despite recent CDC guidance about fully vaccinated people being able to remove their masks in many public situations.

Daily COVID-19 cases have been down and the spread of the virus has slowed, allowing for Murphy to ease restrictions.

"We’re very close to defeating this pandemic," Murphy said Monday. "With every shot, we get closer. Every time you put your mask on when walking indoors, we get closer. Keep it up, and we’ll get there even quicker."

The easing of restrictions came as New Jersey slowly gets closer to Murphy's goal of getting 4.7 million adults vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of June. To date, more than 3.7 people are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

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