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New Jersey

NJ to Allow Outdoor Dining, Expanded Liquor Licenses as Restrictions Slowly Lift

The state is also using recommendations for moving forward at hard-hit long-term care facilities

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Outdoor dining will be returning to New Jersey and Gov. Phil Murphy has revealed the state's plan to protect residents and workers at the state's long-term care facilities that have been hard hit by the novel coronavirus.

Restaurants and outdoor bars can begin offering outdoor service starting June 15, Murphy said Wednesday. He had earlier said he planned for the move, but hadn't offered specifics.

The governor's executive order calls for tables and seating of groups to be at least 6 feet apart. "Other safety and sanitization protocols must be followed," he said.

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Murphy said the Department of Health will be releasing guidance as early as the end of Wednesday on what establishments must do to offer outdoor dining. Some eateries without outdoor seating may be allowed to use parking lots or sidewalks with local and municipal approval.

The state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control will allow one-time permits for facilities looking to expand their services, Murphy said.

Despite the toll already felt, New Jersey is well past its COVID-19 peak, Murphy noted. The first-term Democrat has slowly lifted restrictions intended to slow the spread of the deadly virus as cases have slowed over the past month or so.

In the coming weeks, in-person retail will reopen, and people will be able to return to the salon and barbershop.

As of Wednesday, more than 837,000 COVID-19 tests had been reported in New Jersey, more than 162,000 people testing positive for the coronavirus. At least 11,880 people died from coronavirus-related complications. More than 100 new deaths were reported Wednesday.

Long-Term Plan for Long-Term Care Facilities

Murphy on Wednesday unveiled and endorsed recommendations on improving nursing homes’ responses to outbreaks after COVID-19 ravaged long-term care facilities in the state.

The 100-page report calls for improving nursing homes’ emergency response by consolidating operations for all facilities in a single center. The plan also called for increasing wages and ensuring access to paid sick leave.

The report was compiled by consultants at the firm Manatt, which Murphy’s administration hired for $500,000, according to records obtained under the open records act.

New Jersey’s long-term care facilities have been had hit by the outbreak, accounting for nearly half of the state’s fatalities from the virus.

Murphy reported Wednesday that there were 5,076 lab-confirmed deaths among residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

Murphy said the failures seen in nursing homes and other long-term care homes is not only an issue in New Jersey, but across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Murphy said the recommendations are "feasible" to implement.

He hopes the new procedures will help serve as a national model.

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

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