NEW JERSEY — A significant set of COVID-19 rollbacks will take effect in New Jersey starting Thursday in the form of indoor dining curfews and ban on interstate indoor youth sports travel.
After weeks of high case figures, Gov. Phil Murphy affirmed Monday that “the second wave is here.”
The following must be implemented Thursday:
- All restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges must close indoors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. (this includes casinos, however, gaming operations may continue around the clock)
- Outdoor dining, takeout or delivery services may continue past 10 p.m.
- All bar-side seating will be prohibited at all hours
- Restaurants are allowed to place tables closer than six feet only if barriers are in place
- Individual fully enclosed dining bubbles are allowed for outside-use only (limited to one group of diners each and must be sanitized after use)
“We see cases of bartenders over the past couple of weeks coming down with [COVID-19] infections, we know that people are getting sloppy in and around bars as the night wears on. I can guess why that's the case...and we're going to put a line in the sand on that,” Murphy said during his November 9 coronavirus press briefing from the George Washington Ballroom in Trenton.
On Thursday, all interstate games and tournaments for indoor youth sports -- up to and including high school -- will also be restricted.
The governor said that given the overall surge, a greater risk of transmission is posed "when teams from multiple states" come together.
"It is simply not safe for teams to be crossing state lines at this time to participate in indoor competitions," he said.
In a statement, the NJSIAA concurred with the decision, stating, "“We welcome Governor Murphy’s announcement today prohibiting interstate competition for all indoor sports below the college level. NJSIAA already had restrictions in place related to interstate competition during the fall, and for the upcoming winter seasons. So, while today’s announcement doesn’t alter our current guidelines, it does support our limitations on indoor sports activities.”
Today’s announcements come over two months after limited indoor dining was allowed to resume and indoor youth games were given the green light.
Murphy and State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli have stated that small indoor gatherings and parties were among the top contributors to the torrent of COVID-19 cases statewide -- not the resumption of in-person schooling or businesses serving indoors. However, this Murphy said cases linked to bars and indoor hockey are up.
“But by the same token, we want to you know, our empathy and sympathies are with the restaurant community that's been crushed. We need more federal money for them," Murphy added.
While details were scarce, Persichilli said at least nine bartenders are known to have contracted the respiratory virus at a Monmouth County restaurant.
“To be clear, the last thing I want to do or any of us want to do, is to shut our economy back down… and thankfully, we are not at that point. Looking at the data, we are taking surgical steps that we hope will help mitigate the current increasing rate of spread. No one up here wants to take the type of broad and all encompassing actions like those we had to take in March,” Murphy said.
New Case Figures
New Jersey officials on Monday confirmed 2,075 more coronavirus cases and 11 more deaths.
Since March, the totals are up to 256,653 cases, 14,640 confirmed deaths and 1,800 “probable” deaths. Murphy said ten suspected coronavirus-related deaths took place Sunday at NJ hospitals, but additional tests are required.
The state of nine million has announced over 9,500 additional COVID-19 cases since the governor’s last press briefing Thursday. Persichilli later in the briefing said the average of 2,000 cases each day for the past four days is expected to continue and may even increase to 3,000 daily.
The positivity rate in the state is 7.52% and the rate of transmission (Rt) is 1.24. Hospitalizations are at 1,537 (for the first time since June 9), with 224 patients still under investigation, 94 on ventilators and 309 in intensive care (for the first time since June 17).
Counties with triple-digit cases confirmed Monday: Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Union and Morris.
Anticipated Vaccine Timeline
Drugmaker Pfizer in a statement Monday said they have early indications that its coronavirus vaccine trial was over 90% effective in preventing the disease among volunteers who did not previously display coronavirus symptoms or tested positive for the disease.
While it was welcoming news, Murphy said compliance over the next five to six months is still critical.
“With vaccine development moving forward, the important work of boosting confidence in this vaccine among healthcare workforce is vital. We need our healthcare heroes who have been identified as the priority population to get vaccinated to protect their patients, their families, and to help contain the spread of the virus in our state,” Persichilli said.
Ed Lifshitz, medical director of the communicable disease service at the state Department of Health, said there are still many unknowns when it comes to the vaccine: whether the over 90% effective rate applies to all age groups, if multiple doses may be required in some cases and how long immunity will last.
Still, Pfizer’s results are promising, he said.
“Vaccines almost are never 100% effective,” he said. “[But] we’ll known more in the next coming months.”
Early in the press conference, Murphy also announced that New Jersey State Police and Department of Education will team up to distribute 2.4 million face masks to students, faculty and staff across the state. The Economic Development Authority has also kicked off Phase II of a program giving all state-based business and non-profits a 10% discount on personal protective equipment (PPE). To learn more visit: covid19.nj.gov/ppeaccess.