NEW JERSEY — Bar and restaurant owners across New Jersey will be able to toast this week to the latest expansion on liquor license permits - initially triggered to help businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic while serving outdoors. 

“For many of our residents having the ability to serve liquor to their customers beyond their normal premises has been meaningful. In some cases, life saving [as it has helped] them survive during these challenging times,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during his COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton on Monday afternoon.

The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) will extend allowances on serving outdoors for a $10 fee. Initially issued in June ahead of restaurants being allowed to serve customers outdoors, the permits were set to expire at the end of November. Now, many owners in the Garden State are gearing up for new challenges given the dip in temperatures. 

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In September, after nearly half a year of forced-closures due to the ongoing health crisis, the state allowed indoor dining, gymnasiums and movie theaters to resume with a 25% capacity rule, as well as other safety protocols.  

On Monday, Murphy along with State Epidemiologist Christina Tan and State Health Commissioner Christina Tan announced 1,192 new coronavirus cases in New Jersey (total of 221,205) and four more deaths (total of 14,425 confirmed and 1,789 considered “probable”). There were also 16 deaths in hospitals Sunday believed to COVID-related but awaiting confirmation, the governor said. 

Five counties in NJ confirmed over 100 coronavirus cases, including 154 in Ocean, 132 in Essex, 109 in Union, 108 in Middlesex and 103 in Bergen. Counties also reporting high caseloads: Monmouth with 84, Camden with 75 and Hudson with 78.

"As cooler weather pulls more of us back inside, we must remain extra vigilant," Murphy said Monday, noting that the majority of new cases trace back to private gatherings inside homes rather than the loosening of restrictions on school openings and businesses. 

The positivity rate in the state stands at 3.36% with a rate of transmission (Rt) of 1.14. Although the state’s coronavirus app - helping to buffer contact tracing efforts - has been downloaded 205,000 times, the governor hopes more residents will sign up. The hospital census is as follows: 758 patients being treated (579 confirmed and 179 “persons under investigation"), 62 people require ventilators and 166 in intensive/critical care. 

According to Persichilli, the state began to experience a surge in coronavirus in September. At that point, she said, cases climbed from the high 300s to between 500 to 600 daily. Today and as of late, health officials have confirmed as high as 1,000 cases a day - numbers which mirror nationwide trends. 

“Overall, we are seeing more widespread cases throughout the state due to community spread and not any single event or reopening step,” Persichilli said. 

“I know we are all tired of COVID-19 and all the precautions necessary to prevent the spread of disease and the restrictions we have endured. It is understandable that residents want life to go back to normal. But as we approach the holiday season, now is the time to double down on social distancing, wearing face coverings and good hand hygiene... In the coming weeks, our behavior will be critical in shaping how our holidays will be celebrated,” the health commissioner added.

Although he did not officially confirm a second wave, Murphy said with fall underway the state continues to consider more indoor re-openings.

The next live New Jersey Covid-19 press briefing will be held Thursday. More state outbreak information is available here.