TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy has put the brakes on a plan to start allowing limited indoor dining at bars and restaurants on Thursday, July 2. He said the decision was made Monday morning in response to surges in coronavirus infections in Sunbelt states that have aggressively loosened restrictions on public gatherings, particularly on indoor dining.
“We’ve always said that we would not hesitate to hit pause if needed to safeguard public health. This is one of those times,” he said at his daily news briefing.
“Given the current situation in numerous other states, we do not believe it is prudent at this time to push forward with what is, in effect, a sedentary indoor activity — especially when we know that this virus moves differently indoors than out, making it even more deadly,” he said.
The governor said the decision also was spurred by what has been seen on social media at a few taverns in New Jersey as the state reopens: “Overcrowding. A complete disregard for social distancing. Very few, if any, face coverings.
“I recognize that there are many more establishments whose owners, managers and customers have been responsible, who have lived up … to the spirit of community in helping to protect patrons and residents,” the governor said. “We will not tolerate outlier bars and restaurants – and, frankly, patrons – who think the rules don’t apply to them. They are the ones who ruin it for everyone else. Compliance isn’t a polite suggestion. It is required.”
“So, unfortunately, the national situation, compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home, are requiring us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Last week, the governor announced that travelers arriving in New Jersey from states where the coronavirus is spiking are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. The measure currently applies to travelers from eight states where COVID-19 cases currently are surging: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas.
The governor noted that outdoor graduations may begin on July 6, but warned that any New Jersey graduates who have traveled to a virus hotspot recently should avoid attending and should self-quarantine for two weeks.
“Last week in Westchester County, New York, one student returned from vacation in Florida for their drive-through high school graduation. That student, it turns out, had been exposed to COVID-19 and proceeded to spread it to four classmates. We cannot let that happen here,” he said.
As part of the state’s Stage 2 reopening plan, museums, aquariums, libraries and indoor recreation facilities, including boardwalk arcades, batting cages, shooting ranges and bowling alleys, may open on Thursday, July 2. Those are in addition to boardwalk rides, outdoor amusement parks and playgrounds, as well as racetracks and Atlantic City casinos that will be permitted to open on July 2.
The governor said one reason that these facilities may resume some indoor operations is that the wearing of face masks will be required there at all times. At restaurants and bars, patrons can’t wear face coverings while eating or drinking, he noted.
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