By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
TRENTON, N.J. — On Monday, Governor Phil Murphy announced that capacity limits for a number of different indoor recreational spaces, including sporting events and religious services, will be expanded.
Religious ceremonies such as funerals, wedding ceremonies, and memorial services will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, effective immediately. Previously, those events were allowed to operate at 35% capacity with a maximum of 150 people, but the expanded limits don’t include a maximum count of people.
Although there are no professional sports teams based in South Jersey, large sports and entertainment venues with a capacity of 5,000 people or more will be allowed to operate at 10% or 15% capacity, depending on whether or not they are indoor or outdoor. In the short term, teams like the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the Division I men’s basketball teams at Seton Hall and Rutgers will be able to host a limited amount of fans effective on March 1.
Collegiate conferences can still use their discretion to implement stricter safety protocols if they so choose.
“As our COVID-19 metrics continue to trend in the right direction and as we continue our aggressive vaccination effort, we believe we can safely take this step,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release. “We have always strived to make accommodations wherever safely possible, be it with religious services, sporting events, entertainment venues, or in other sectors. I am pleased that we are able to increase these limits today and hopeful that the numbers continue to point in the right direction for further reopening steps.”
Additionally, parents and guardians will be allowed to attend collegiate practices effective immediately. Athletes will be allowed to invite two people per practice, and indoor venues can’t be filled beyond 35% capacity during practices. Outdoor spaces must make accommodations so all in attendance can adhere to social distancing.
The governor’s decision to expand capacity limits at major sporting events and religious services is another step taken towards loosening COVID-19-related restrictions in New Jersey. Gov. Murphy allowed restaurants to operate indoors at 35% capacity in early February, up from the previously-imposed 25% capacity limit.
On Monday, the state reported 2,165 new COVID-19 cases. More than 1.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered statewide as of yesterday.
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