Indoor sports can resume in January, Gov. Murphy says

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TRENTON — During his final COVID-19 briefing of the New Year, Gov. Phil Murphy said that indoor sporting competitions will be permitted to resume on Saturday after a nearly month-long pause.

Despite existing limits on indoor gatherings, capped at 10 individuals, sports programs will be allowed to go over that number if more than 10 persons are needed in order for the game or match to be held.

That provision for additional persons does not, however, extend to spectators. Only in cases when the number of competitors is less than 10 —as with a singles tennis match, for example — would spectators be permitted to be part of the 10 persons present.

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“Given the safety protocols that we have in place and the stability that we have in our numbers over the past months … we feel confident we can move forward by continuing to deal with any outbreaks or other issues on an individual case basis,” Gov. Murphy said during a Facebook Live briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 30. The pause on indoor sports began on Dec. 5.

Youth hockey, however, will continue to be suspended. Gov. Murphy joined the governors of Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts in extending the suspension on interstate youth hockey competitions for public and private schools as well as youth hockey leagues until Jan. 31. The suspension does not apply to collegiate, professional or U.S. national team hockey games. 

The governor also voiced optimism about the coming new year, after acknowledging that the pandemic has left “a deep scar” throughout New Jersey.

“We know that 2021 will bring better days, but we are going to have to greet the new year with the same war footing that we are ending 2020,” he said, citing “hope and optimism” from the expanding vaccination program, but adding, “look at the numbers, we can’t consider ourselves done with this virus because this virus is not done with us.”

On Wednesday the state reported 4,664 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total since March to 472, 264. The daily test positivity rate was reported at 15.19 percent, with a  statewide rate of transmission .95. Hospitalizations 3,727 patients being treated across 71 hospitals., 701 patients in intensive care, and 467 patients in need of a ventilator. The governor also reported an additional 99 new deaths, 16,931 total. The number of probable deaths revised upward to 2,021.

On the vaccine front, 62,901 New Jerseyans have so far been vaccinated, according to Judith Persichilli, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health.

On Monday, the state began to vaccinate residents of long-term care facilities. So far more than 200 vaccination sites have been set up throughout the state, she added.

The governor said that so far, vaccinations are going to plan in New Jersey. The state is still in its so-called 1A phase, which includes health care workers and is expected to continue around 600,000 individuals.

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