Gov. Murphy Suspends Indoor High School Sports Until 2021, Tightens Gathering Limits

By: Savannah Scarborough, Writer / Follow South Jersey Community Services Intern

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — On November 29, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order that will suspend all indoor practices and competitions for youth and adult sports. This order will take effect at 6 a.m Saturday, December 5 and continue through January 2, 2021. The order will also lower the outdoor gatherings limit from 150 people to 25 people, effective at 6 a.m. on December 7.

Indoor sports practices and competitions will be suspended during this time. This order will not impact collegiate or professional sporting activities, private fitness classes, lessons, and training at gyms, studios, and similar locations.

Many high school sports will not be affected by this order, as many have already postponed their seasons and competitions to January. However, high school ice hockey was slated to start in mid-December.

“While there is still hope on the horizon in the form of several vaccines, in the interim, we are taking these steps today to protect our communities,” Gov. Murphy said.

Just last week, COVID-19 restrictions lowered outdoor gathering capacity from 500 to 150 individuals, and now, a week later, is being reduced to 25 individuals. Those attending these outdoor events must adhere to social distancing guidelines when possible and are required to wear masks when not possible to socially distance.

Similar to Gov. Murphy’s updated COVID-19 restrictions last week, wedding ceremonies, funerals, memorial services, and religious and political activities will not be affected by the outdoor gathering limit.

Despite these new restrictions, outdoor sports will still be allowed to take place due to the people needed for the games such as athletes, coaches, and referees. These individuals will not count towards the 25-person limit, but spectators will not have access to these events when that number exceeds 25.

To apply a clear indicator of the rules, Gov. Murphy also addressed guidelines concerning addiction support groups. Indoor meetings of these groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, are not limited to 10 individuals, but now is limited to 25 percent of the room’s capacity, with a maximum of 150 individuals.

Gov. Murphy’s goal is to keep life as normal as possible before a potential vaccine rollout. He has not ruled out issuing another statewide shutdown and has clearly expressed that he will not be afraid to do it again as he did in the spring during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has to stay on the table,” he said.

COVID-19 cases have risen to about 3,000-to-4,000 new cases per day in New Jersey over the past weeks, meaning these tight restrictions and regulations regarding the virus are crucial. In preparation for the holiday season, Gov. Murphy believes these steps are vital to slow the spread and keep New Jersey Safe.

Hospitalizations are beginning to drop in New Jersey but continue to remain at the highest recorded total since May 22.

“As we battle the second wave of COVID-19, we must continue to take all steps necessary to prevent needless infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from this deadly virus,” Gov. Murphy said during a COVID-19 briefing on November 30, “The great news is there’s light at the end of the tunnel [with] vaccines in particular, but for the next two or three months, we’re in the fight for our lives.”

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.