NEW JERSEY — “Good trends,” as Gov. Phil Murphy put it Monday, will allow New Jersey to expand its COVID-19 gathering limits.

The changes go into effect immediately. Religious services at churches, mosques and other houses of worship will be allowed to run at 50% capacity.

Also in effect, two parents/guardians will be allowed to attend indoor and outdoor college sports practices, as long as crowd sized don’t go over 35% and social distancing is in place outdoors.

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“As our numbers continue to decline, we believe we can safely take this step. It is important to remember that masks will continue to be required, unless they must be briefly removed for religious purposes such as taking communion,” Murphy said Monday. “Additionally, members of different households must be at least six feet apart at all times.”

Thirdly, starting next week on March 1, professional sports and entertainment venues will allow for spectators. A 5,000-person cap will be in effect - with a 10% capacity for indoor venues and 15% capacity for outdoor venues.

In New Jersey, Murphy announced, 1,676,496 vaccine doses have been administered as of Monday – 1.14 million first doses and over 500,000 second does.

State officials say their efforts have been somewhat impacted by delays. 

“The scarcity of vaccine, as I've said, is a national issue, and the delayed shipments were also felt nationwide because of the significant icing and freezing conditions in the United States,” State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said during the Trenton press conference. “We continue to ask for your patience and shipments are rolling in today sites will be working hard to ensure all those who had appointments [are] rescheduled and vaccinated.”

Persichilli reported that 33% of adults 18 and older - an age group that accounts for 47% of the state’s coronavirus deaths - have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Moreover, 33% of residents 65 to 79 (make up 35% of mortalities) have received one dose of the vaccine. As for residents 80 and older, 33% have received one dose and 13% have received two doses and are fully immunized.

An additional 17 people have died from complications linked to the virus, the governor said. Thus, there are now 22,874 coronavirus deaths (2,289 considered “probable”).

There were 2,165 new positive pcr tests (total 684,902) and 682 antigen tests (total 84,207) confirmed in New Jersey as of this afternoon. The positivity rate is 6.35% and the rate of transmission (Rt) is .86.

In New Jersey hospitals, there were 2,023 patients being treated as of Sunday night (1,888 confirmed to have COVID-19). Meanwhile, 438 people were in intensive care and 289 required ventilators.

On Sunday, 186 people were discharged from hospitals, 198 patients were admitted and there were 31 deaths at hospitals yet to be officially linked to the coronavirus.

Below is more detailed guidance from the state on the latest allowances:

Religious Services Effective immediately 

  • Religious services and celebrations, including wedding ceremonies, funerals, and memorial services that involve a religious service, will be able to operate at 50% capacity of the room in which they are held, with no cap on the number of individuals permitted to attend.  Services were previously limited to 35% of the room, up to 150 individuals.  
  • Individuals attending services will still be required to wear masks and sit six feet apart from those outside of their household group.

Collegiate Sporting Events Effective immediately 

  • Operators of indoor and outdoor collegiate sports practices and competitions may allow up to two parents or guardians per each participating athlete.
  • Even including this limited number of parents and guardians, the total number of individuals at an indoor practice or competition cannot exceed 35% of the capacity of the room, and any outdoor space needs to accommodate all attendees with appropriate room for social distancing.
  • Collegiate athletic conferences retain the discretion to impose stricter protocols regarding spectators, including for events that take place in large venues.

Large Sports and Entertainment Venues Effective Monday, March 1 at 6:00 a.m. 

  • Large sports and entertainment venues with a fixed seating capacity of 5,000 or more will be permitted to host a number of patrons and members of the public equal to 10% of capacity indoors and 15% of capacity outdoors.  
  • Facilities that host such events must ensure that all attendees at the event remain six feet apart from other attendees, except that individuals who purchase or reserve tickets together may be seated together.  Attendees will also be required to wear masks within the facility, except when eating or drinking.  

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