TRENTON, NJ - Governor Phil Murphy today lifted his executive order requiring New Jersey residents to stay at home, and has lifted a limit on outdoor gatherings and indoor gatherings aimed primarily at accommodating the state's faith-based communities and houses of worship.
The lifting of "these orders put us more firmly on our road back," Murphy said. "Social distancing will remain our watchwords while they will allow for greater movement and flexibility our number one concern must remain protecting public health."
Murphy said his orders are effective immediately. Indoor gatherings are allowed at either 25 percent of a building's capacity or at 50 people in total, whichever is lower. Attendees would be required wear face coverings and maintain social distancing. The limit on indoor gatherings previously stood at 10.
"With more and more of our businesses reopening we are no longer requiring you to stay at home, but we are asking you to be responsible and safe," Murphy said. "Continue to wear face coverings and maintain social distance. Research shows stay-at-home orders have saved lives in our case hundreds if not thousands."
Murphy said the order will allow for greater indoor religious services.
"We've not only heard from our partners in our faith communities, but we have worked closely with many of them and believe this represents a responsible plan that insures religious services will be appropriately distanced and as safe as possible," he said.
The governor acknowledged that there may be some religious leaders who are not yet comfortable opening their doors to their congregations, and he said his order is not a requirement that they do so. He also noted that his expansion of indoor gatherings does not yet apply to dining as restaurants around the state prepare to offer outdoor dining to customers beginning on June 15, and that his lifting of indoor limits also does not yet apply to theaters or clubs.
Accompanying the raising of the limit on indoor gatherings, Murphy also moved to increase the limits on outdoor activities. He raised the number allowed to gather from 25 to 100, and he said there is an exception to allow for more than 100 persons for "First Amendment-protected outdoor activities, such as political protests of any persuasion or outdoor religious services."
"Given the growing body of evidence showing the reduced risk of transmission outdoors we believe such a rule appropriately prioritizes individuals rights to speak and worship freely," Murphy added.
As health data collected on the spread of the COVID-19 in the state continues to trend in the right direction, Murphy said he is prepared raise the outdoor limits to 250 on June 22 and 500 on July 3, which could pave the way for some school districts to reconsider holding outdoor graduation ceremonies. Murphy previously announced school districts could hold outdoor graduation ceremonies beginning July 6.
The governor continues to loosen restrictions put in place back in March as coronavirus infections started to ramp up. Previously announced was that public and private pools could reopen on June 22. The governor said all outdoor recreation and entertainment could reopen, but specifically did not include amusement parks, water parks and entertainment that offered "high-touch experiences."
Pools that re-open must adhere to a maximum capacity of 50 percent occupancy, must provide signage and markings to make social distancing easier for members and actively encourage the use of face coverings when people are not in the pool, according to Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, who added that pool staff must be screened daily for fever and viral symptoms and that pool toys like floats and noodles will be prohibited.
How pools choose to enforce a 50 percent occupancy capacity will be an individual one by facility, but Persichilli said some pools may adopt a reservation system.
Murphy regularly refers to health data as a foundation for making decisions on when to advance the state's economic recovery plan. His decision to loosen limits on indoor and outdoor gathering is due to continually declining numbers of daily hospitalizations, the number of patients currently under care in hospitals, the number of patients in intensive care units and the number patients on ventilators.
As such, he reported 375 new positive tests for a statewide total of 164,796 cases. He specifically noted that the rate of transmission is below one and "one of the lowest in the nation." A rate under one means that any infected person is passing the virus on to less than one other person. When Murphy signed his stay-at-home order on March 21, the rate of transmission was over five. It now stands at .64.
There are 1,736 patients being treated in New Jersey hospitals. Murphy said this is the sixth day in a row the number has been under 2,000.
The Governor reported an additional 91 fatalities bringing the state's total to 12,303.