What to Know
- Gov. Phil Murphy says New Jersey bars and restaurants must halt indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting this week because of an uptick in the coronavirus.
- Murphy is also prohibiting indoor youth sports teams form playing teams from other states.
- "A second wave is here," Murphy said. "This is our reality."
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is ordering bars, clubs and restaurants to halt indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in an attempt to control a resurgence of the coronavirus. The measure also covers indoor service at banquet halls.
The new restriction will go into effect Thursday, the first-term Democrat said at his Monday coronavirus news briefing.
"A second wave is here," Murphy said. "This is our reality."
Outdoor dining and take-out services can continue past 10 p.m. Casinos must also stop food and drink services at 10 p.m., but can keep gambling going.
All bar-side seating will be prohibited. The governor said that people are "getting sloppy" as the night goes on and that the state has learned of bartenders becoming sick.
During the hours they are allowed to be open, bars and restaurants will still be subject to indoor dining restrictions limiting capacity to 25%, a restriction that many businesses and Murphy's political rivals say hurts their bottom line.
Murphy noted that in smaller eateries, they need bar seating to get to 25%. He said restaurants may place tables closer than 6 feet if the tables are separated by barriers. "Individual fully-enclosed dining bubbles may be set-up for outside use," Murphy said.
Republicans rejected the governor's new order. GOP state Sen. Joe Pennacchio called it unjustified.
“This is just another random edict from a governor who continues to fight the pandemic without the benefit of logic or science,” he said in an emailed statement. “Is the governor suggesting diners are more susceptible to the virus later in the night?"
Health officials have said that indoor settings make it easier for the virus to spread compared with outdoors, and Murphy has long promised to return to closures if the virus caseload spiked again.
Marilou Halvorsen, president and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, characterized the new guidelines as the latest example of restaurants being unfairly targeted while restrictions at other businesses, such as big-box stores, are less draconian.
Had she been consulted, she said, she would have urged a more targeted approach than penalizing the whole industry.
“I appreciate the fact that the governor and the health commissioner are concerned about the spike,” Halvorsen said. “But we’re the ones that get the black mark. To do something just to do it, doesn’t make sense.”
The Casino Association of New Jersey issued a statement reiterating the Atlantic City casinos' commitment to precautions designed to prevent the spread of the virus. It also emphasized that the casinos themselves will remain open as usual, and that gambling operations are not affected by the governor's order.
Murphy is also putting new restrictions on youth sports team playing teams from out of state.
"Starting this Thursday, all interstate games and tournaments for indoor youth sports – up to and including high school – are prohibited," Murphy said. "It is simply not safe for teams to be crossing state lines at this time to participate in indoor competitions."
The new restrictions come as the coronavirus rate of infection and number of cases climb higher in New Jersey and across the country. Murphy urged people to wear masks and practice socially distancing amid ongoing pandemic "fatigue."
"We remain in the midst of a global pandemic," Murphy said. "Our country is recording more than 100,000 cases per day. We have to snap back into reality – this virus hasn’t gone away, and it is posing its greatest threat to us in months."'
Murphy said a recent conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, led him to believe a vaccine will be widely available in the spring.
“This is not forever and always," Murphy said. "We basically have a six-month window to beat the virus into the ground."
Over the past week, an average of about 2,000 people per day have been infected by the virus, up from a rate of about 370 per day in August. Another 2,075 cases were reported Monday, bringing the total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in New Jersey to almost 257,000.
At least 14,640 people have died from coronavirus-related complications. Another 1,800 deaths are suspected to be due to COVID-19.
More than 1,500 people were hospitalized in New Jersey as of Monday, with more than 300 in the ICU, Murphy said.
The positivity rate of people who have tested for COVID-19 was at 7.52%.as of Monday.
Murphy said no one in his administration wants to return to full lockdown restrictions like they did back in the spring.
"The last thing I want to do is shut our economy back down," Murphy said Monday. "Thankfully, we’re not at that point. We’re taking steps today to mitigate the current increasing rate of spread."
NJ.com was the first to report that Murphy would be imposing new restrictions on indoor dining.