What to Know
- New Jersey bars and restaurants must stop indoor service from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. under new coronavirus restrictions.
- Local municipalities and counties can also soon limit the night-time hours of nonessential businesses, Gov. Phil Murphy says.
- Since Monday, New Jersey has reported more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19.
People won't be able to grab late-night drinks and food inside New Jersey restaurants, bars and casinos starting Thursday night as the Garden State begins to take measures aimed at slowing a second wave of coronavirus. And, local municipalities can soon take business hour restrictions a step further.
The so-called second wave led Gov. Phil Murphy this week to announce that indoor dining at bars and restaurants must halt from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning on Thursday.
Takeout and outdoor dining may continue past 10 p.m., Murphy said. Another change allows restaurants to seat tables closer than 6 feet apart if they erect a barrier.
The governor also said bar seating must be halted, along with interstate indoor school sports. College and professional teams were not covered by the order.
Murphy on Thursday joined the governors in the six New England states to suspend interstate youth hockey competitions through the end of the year because of rising coronavirus cases.
Also on Thursday, Murphy extended the ability to close nonessential businesses at night to local municipalities. He planned to sign an executive order that gives towns and counties the option to force nonessential businesses to close at 8 p.m.
“Our surgical approach empowers local officials to take actions to prevent localized hot spots from becoming COVID wildfires," he said.
Murphy's decision is a change from the spring when he ordered statewide closures and declined to adopt a regional approach.
Murphy noted that municipal or county restrictions on essential businesses, full business closures or capacity restrictions that differ from statewide rules, "are impermissible and will be invalidated."
He said he doesn't think at this point that many communities will take up the offer, the state's largest city, however, has already called for earlier closing times.
Nonessential businesses in Newark already must close at 8 p.m. and restaurant and bars must cease indoor service at 8 p.m., under an executive order signed by Mayor Ras Baraka two weeks ago.
The new restrictions come as the coronavirus rate of infection and number of cases climbs higher in New Jersey and across the country. Since Monday, New Jersey has reported more than 10,000 new cases.
“This is a wake-up call, we need your help,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
On Thursday alone, 3,517 new coronavirus cases were reported to bring the statewide total to just short of 267,000. The statewide positivity rate for tests recorded on Sunday was 12.02% and the rate of transmission was at 1.3.
On Thursday, Murphy said that 1,827 people were hospitalized with coronavirus and that 360 patients were in the ICU. The hospitalizations are more than four times the number reported two months ago, health officials said.
The first-term Democrat also reported 18 new deaths on Thursday to bring the statewide totals of confirmed coronavirus deaths to at least 14,694.
"We have to get back to the mindset that saw us crush the curve throughout the spring," Murphy said. "We cannot be successful unless every New Jerseyan recognizes their responsibility in this fight. Social distance. Wear a mask. Wash your hands."
Murphy explained the decision to begin coronavirus-related restrictions again during a Thursday morning interview on the TODAY Show.
"Our numbers have gone up dramatically... everything is going in the wrong direction," Murphy said.
Murphy said a combination of fatigue over masking and social distancing along with people gathering indoors as temperature cool are contributing to the second wave of infections in his state. He said waiting for a vaccine isn't an option.
“We are in for a long dark winter before a vaccine becomes available.”