By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
TRENTON, N.J. — On Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey will allow restaurants to operate indoor dining at 50% capacity beginning next Friday, March 19.
The Governor also announced capacity expansion for other indoor businesses — including gyms, fitness centers, casinos, and personal care centers such as barber shops & hair salons. The state’s general indoor gathering capacity limit has also been expanded from 10 people to 25, and its general outdoor gathering limit doubled in capacity from 25 to 50 people.
“We feel confident in these steps given the data that we’ve been seeing over the past five weeks since the last time we expanded the indoor reality,” Gov. Murphy said during his regularly-scheduled coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. “While the numbers of new cases we report daily can fluctuate from day to day, particularly when you look at weekend testing and you’re going to see an example of that today, and some days can be high, we believe that when all factors are weighed, we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress on our healthcare system.”
These changes will take effect at 6 a.m. on Friday, March 19.
Wednesday’s decision to expand capacity limits at indoor businesses is another step that New Jersey took towards returning to full normalcy on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the pandemic isn’t quite over yet, the state feels comfortable loosening COVID-19-related restrictions due to case numbers remaining relatively low, which has also led to less of a burden on New Jersey’s health care system.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, New Jersey has administered 2,743,157 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Of those, 925,777 people have received their second dose, which means they’re fully vaccinated against the virus. Although there are still some community members who have been eligible for months struggling to find appointment times, New Jersey’s distribution of the vaccine has gone relatively well. Last week, the state administered 500,000 doses of the vaccine, and it’s inching ever closer to its initial goal of vaccinating 4.7 million people by the end of May.
New Jersey last expanded capacity limits for indoor dining in early February. Indoor dining and other businesses have been operating at a 35% capacity limit since February 5.
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