TRENTON, NJ - Too many cooks spoil the broth and apparently too many knuckleheads can spoil the planned re-opening of indoor dining.
Gov. Phil Murphy pumped the brakes Monday on his road to re-opening New Jersey, citing scenes of packed crowds at outdoor bars and restaurants - with people not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing - as the reasons for postponing the return of indoor dining indefinitely.
Murphy, who had called for bars and restaurants to open with reduced capacity Thursday, said during his daily COVID-19 news conference that he didn't want the virus to begin a second surge like the one the state saw in March and April.
"We have been cautious throughout every step of our restart," he said. "We’ve always said that we would not hesitate to hit pause if needed to safeguard public health. This is one of those times. After COVID-19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely."
Murphy has for months weighed public health against the state's financial well-being, adopting the mantras “public health creates economic health” and “data determines dates." As discharges continued to outpace new hospitalizations, Murphy pushed the state into Phase 2 of the re-opening.
On July 2, restaurants were scheduled to open at 25% capacity with tables six feet apart. Now, not only will indoor dining be put on hold, but the cancellation also affects wedding venues and baquet halls.
The reopening of casinos remains scheduled for Thursday.
Restricted outdoor dining is still permitted.
Murphy said he was moved to keep dining rooms closed by seeing how relaxed social distancing measures likely contributed to flareups in states such as Texas, Alabama and Florida. Those three are part of the inaugural eight states on New Jersey's quarantine-on-arrival list.
Murphy reported 45 new hospitalizations and 70 discharges across the state during today's news conference.