TRENTON, NJ — Wedding ceremonies will no longer be left at the altar because of the pandemic, NJ Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday — albeit with some caveats.
In the latest signal that the state is gradually returning to a pseudo-normalcy, Murphy announced this afternoon that he will sign an executive order relaxing in-person requirements for weddings.
"Wedding ceremonies will be allowed to be held using video-conferencing technology, with certain safeguards," Murphy said while announcing the order during his daily press briefing at the George Washington Ballroom in Trenton on Friday.
Ceremonies were first banned March 21 as a way to mitigate COVID-19 from spreading — sending couples throughout the Garden State scrambling.
."Municipalities are still permitted to allow in-person ceremonies, subject to social distancing, but will not be required to do so," he added.
In discussing the opening of county and state parks taking place this Saturday, state health officials continued to stress the importance of safety protocols while the state begins to ease measures statewide.
"This weekend will be a huge test for all of us,” Murphy said. "If we see what we saw in the first weekend of April....we will not hesitate to re-close the parks.”
Confirming the latest figures, the Garden State reported at least 2,651 cases and at least 311 additional deaths on Friday — meaning the state can now claim at least 121,190 cases and 7,538 deaths.
Among the victims Murphy eulogized was Cherie LaPelusa whom he termed "a Bayonne original, born and raised. Cherie, "beloved wife" of Councilman Gary Lapelusa died Wednesday after battling coronavirus, leaving their her daughters, Jennifer, Giana, and two sons, David and Gary Jr.
"Cherie was only 53 years old," Murphy said, adding that "it was in the midst of the battle of her life, not just with her own health, but her mom is also battling this awful thing and it was unspeakable. There she was, trying to save her mom's life and in fact, she lost her own."
Among the steps park goers should be taking this weekend: visit a park close to home, stay six feet apart, use hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol, wash hands frequently, and avoid individuals not in your household.
The use of masks or face coverings is "strongly encouraged," State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli emphasized.
"Don't visit a park if you're sick, or if you have recently exposed to someone who has tested positive, and don't use playground, or [partake in] organized sports," Persichilli said.
In response to a reporter about future openings, Murphy said how residents adhere to the reopening of parks "matters a lot."
The governor did not indicate exactly what may get the green light next — following inquiries about considerations for beaches and casinos — but said his team is "war-gamming" that task.
Col. Patrick Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said officers will be on hand to monitor parks but added that authorities also rely on "community policing" — reminding residents to be vigilant of non-compliant behavior.
"Let's all pull our weight," he said.
Despite New York announcing the closure of all school buildings for the remainder of the academic year Friday, Murphy said the NJ school closure still stands at May 15.
He said an update is expected Monday.
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.