LIVINGSTON, NJ — Just in time for Memorial Day Weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy lifted the 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings on Friday and has granted up to 25 to congregate so long as all individuals adhere to the proper COVID-19 safety protocols. 

Altering the restrictions does not impact indoor gatherings, which remain capped at 10 people.

“If you were looking forward to gathering with your neighbors for a Memorial Day cookout you may do so, so long as social distance and personal responsibility remain the order of the day,” said Murphy, whose Twitter page later posted the following message: “Enjoy this weekend, but do not be complacent. Keep up with your social distancing. Wear a face covering if you’re going out. Let’s prove that we can keep these trend lines moving in the right direction.”

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After Livingston police officers observed a group of about a dozen kids riding their bikes together on Friday morning, the Livingston Police Department cautioned residents that although they were within the 25-person limit for outdoor activities, none of the bikers wore face masks or helmets. 

Heading into the long weekend, which includes Friday and Monday for Livingston Public Schools students, Livingston Police Chief Gary Marshuetz urged parents to talk with their kids "about the importance of using personal protective equipment and helmets and to refrain from large gatherings."

“We do respond to calls of groups of people being together, but it’s not as often as you think,” said Marshuetz. “We also get a lot of calls from people saying that there are groups of kids together who shouldn’t be together; and then when we get there and there are six or seven kids, there’s nothing we can do because they are being compliant…Ten kids looks like a big group, but it’s still permitted.

“That being said, this is still out there, and people do need to comply with the new executive order. Stay within the group limits, continue to social distance and continue to wear the proper protective equipment.”

With the official re-opening of New Jersey beaches on Friday, state officials said this weekend will act a test of how residents handle the new norms of a trip to the Jersey Shore.

As he signs the executive order, Murphy explained that the state edges closer to Phase 2 of its six-point plan to re-open the Garden State. In other words, as long as residents continue to socially distance, the expansion on capacity paves the way for charter fishing, driving ranges and batting cages to operate more easily.

Following the continued easement of safety rules, Murphy said he expects to have guidance on graduations early next week.

“Because you have taken to heart all you’ve asked us to do to safeguard public health, we can take this step together, metrics from hospitals,” he said. 

Earlier this week, Livingston Mayor Rudy Fernandez reported that the rate of COVID-19 incidence in Livingston is about 15.4 cases per 1,000 residents, which is slightly below the statewide rate.

He also explained that the rate of increase has slowed significantly throughout Essex County over recent weeks, stating that the county saw a 6-percent increase in COVID-19 from May 12 to May 19 versus a 57-percent increase from April 7 to April 14.

These values are comparable to the averages in Livingston, which saw an 8-percent increase compared to a 41-percent increase over the same time periods.

“Let’s all keep doing our part to continue these trends and keep Livingston healthy,” said Fernandez.

According to county data, the Township of Livingston had a total of 466 COVID-19 cases among residents and 65 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. 

The State of New Jersey confirmed a total of 152,719 COVID-19 cases on Friday, which represents an increase of 1,394 since Thursday, and 10,985 deaths (146 more than Thursday).

Today was the fifth consecutive day that New Jersey officials announced less than 200 additional deaths, and the 16th consecutive day with fewer than 2,000 additional cases.

The latest, including discharges and hospital census, is updated on the state’s health department website.