By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
TRENTON, N.J. — On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced an expansion to outdoor gathering limits and capacity for large venues.
The state’s previously-mandated limit of 50 people at outdoor gatherings has been expanded to 200. Additionally, the state now defines “large venues” as places with a capacity of 2,500 instead of 5,000. Indoor and outdoor large venues are now allowed to operate at 20% and 30% capacity, respectively. Those capacity limits exclude participants like players, coaches, performers, and staff, just as they did when larger venues were reopened at 10% capacity earlier in March.
If they’re held outside, religious/political activities, weddings, funerals, and memorial services can be held without capacity limits.
Gov. Murphy cited warmer, more improved weather conditions as the main reasoning behind his decision to expand capacity and gathering limits throughout the state.
“With the warmer weather approaching, we are taking the step to increase outdoor gathering limits to encourage everyone to engage in social activities outside whenever possible,” Gov. Murphy said. “Additionally, we are confident in increasing capacity in our large venues as we have seen the strict enforcement of our COVID-19 health and safety protocols by spectators since we reopened these venues last month. By continuing to follow public health guidance and data, I am hopeful that we will be able to responsibly and incrementally expand capacities in the coming months.”
The Governor’s decision to loosen gathering and capacity restrictions is a sharp contrast from his sentiment on the pandemic last week. He said that New Jersey wouldn’t loosen any of its COVID-19-related restrictions “for some time” during an appearance on CNN last week, but that obviously changed on Monday.
COVID-19 case numbers in New Jersey have plateaued, if not slightly increased, over the past couple weeks following a sharp downturn through the end of January and beginning in February. According to New Jersey’s COVID-19 dashboard, the state reported more than 4,000 new cases in a single day for the first time since January on March 26. However, New Jersey was back to reporting a little more than 3,000 new cases on Monday.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advised states that have loosened or removed mask mandates to reverse those decisions as soon as possible yesterday. During an emotional press briefing, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky advised Americans to “hold on a little while longer,” as her department and the federal government as a whole fears another incoming surge of infections throughout the United States.
“I am asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends,” Dr. Walensky said, according to The New York Times.
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