Governor Phil Murphy is requiring indoor bars and restaurants in New Jersey to close by 10 p.m., one of several restrictions that he announced today to address a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“There is more than anecdotal evidence that as the night wears on, probably for reasons that are obvious, people let their hair down,” Murphy said, while also sharing that the state’s positivity rate is at 7.52%.
The new guidelines, which go into effect beginning Thursday, November 12th, also prohibit bar seating. (Indoor dining is allowed at 25% capacity.) The state is tracking a few outbreaks that are connected to customers and bartenders, and it’s believed that social distancing isn’t occurring at the bar.
The restrictions apply to indoor bars, restaurants, banquet halls, and event spaces. Casinos will end food and bar service at 10 p.m., but gambling will be allowed to continue into the night. The new guidelines don’t apply to outdoor dining or events.
Murphy announced 2,075 new COVID-19 cases, the sixth day cases have exceeded 2,000 in the state. There are currently 1,537 people with COVID in the hospital, making this the first time New Jersey has exceeded 1,500 hospitalizations since June. There are also 309 people in ICU, the highest since mid-June.
“To be clear, the last thing I want to do...is shut down our economy, and thankfully we’re not at that point,” Murphy said. “We are acting with more precision-based actions from what we are seeing on the ground.”
The new restrictions also come with some ability for restaurants to expand capacity limits if barriers between tables are installed. Outdoor dining bubbles, basically a plastic tent that surrounds a table, will also be allowed.
“We have to shake off the pandemic fatigue that I know we all feel, I feel it as well,” Murphy said.
The governor is also prohibiting any interstate games or tournaments for indoor sports. Youth hockey has contributed to COVID transmission, Murphy said. “That risk is even greater when teams from multiple states come together for tournaments or other youth league functions.”
In other measures to stop the spread of the virus, New Jersey State Police are distributing 2.4 million masks to schools, and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has announced a discount program for businesses to purchase personal protective equipment.