By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
TRENTON, N.J. — On Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy offered more good news regarding the state’s reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Murphy said that residents should expect to see an “accelerating opening up of the state” over the coming weeks and months as the state’s COVID-19 metrics continue to improve. In addition to New Jersey’s strong vaccination numbers, cases in the state are significantly down from even one week ago.
“You’re going to see us accelerating opening up of the state. There’s just no other way to put it,” Gov. Murphy said during his regularly-scheduled COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday afternoon. “My guess is, if I had to predict, we’ll have more news on that front on Monday.”
As of Thursday morning, New Jersey’s COVID-19 dashboard reported that 6,834,212 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered statewide. Of those, 4,167,316 New Jerseyans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 2,915,754 people in the state are fully inoculated against the pandemic after receiving the second Pfizer or Moderna shot (or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson model).
Additionally, cases in New Jersey are down significantly, as the state has reported fewer than 2,000 cases per day for the last four days. The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey is down 31% from last week and 42% from a month ago.
The governor made a “major” announcement of loosened COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week that will take effect on May 10. A number of indoor activities — including school proms, weddings, political events, funerals, and memorial services — will now be allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Large venues, which are now defined as settings with more than 1,000 fixed seats, are also allowed to open up to 50% capacity. The altered definition of “large venue” could allow high schools with stadiums that have more than 1,000 seats to host commencement ceremonies with larger crowds this year.
Although many restrictions will be loosened in New Jersey based on Monday’s announcement, Gov. Murphy hasn’t removed New Jersey’s indoor mask or social distancing mandates yet. He did, however, defer to the CDC’s updated mask guidance for outdoor activities that was released Tuesday and touch on masks at his COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
“We still are mandating indoor wearing of face coverings unless when you’re literally putting food or drink into yourselves,” Gov. Murphy said. “Our outside guidance is and has been – has not changed – we’re asking you to wear a mask outdoors unless you can properly socially distance, in which case you don’t need to wear it. The only wrinkle between what we’ve been saying from day one and as I understood the feds saying yesterday is they’ve added that you need to be vaccinated to [take your mask off outdoors]. We’ve not had that as a requirement, and I don’t expect that we will.”
New Jersey residents still need to take personal responsibility in being safe and making sure they don’t infect others by continuing to wear masks and socially distance when necessary and getting vaccinated. If the current figures are any indication, however, we have reached the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic — a sentiment that Gov. Murphy shared on Wednesday.
“It is now quite clear that this thing has turned and turned for the better. That’s really good news,” he said. “Don’t let that lull you into not getting vaccinated.”
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