TRENTON — Restrictions on indoor activities, meant to keep limit the spread of COVID-19, will be relaxed on Friday as businesses will be able to welcome more customers through their doors.

Starting on Feb. 5, restaurants will be able to expand their indoor seating capacity from 25 percent to 35 percent. The 10 p.m. curfew that restaurants faced will also be lifted on Friday. Prohibitions on sitting at indoor bar areas will continue to be in effect.

Indoor entertainment and recreation and personal care businesses will also have their capacity increased to 35 percent.


Indoor gathering capacity, including for religious ceremonies, weddings, political activities, memorial services and funerals, will also have their limits increased to 35 percent but no greater than 150 individuals. Performance venues may also operate at 35 percent capacity, but no greater than 150 individuals.

Gov. Phil Murphy said that the change comes as metrics for hospitalizations and new cases were stable.

“While some of these numbers are still high, we believe we can make this expansion without further stress on our health care system,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a briefing on Wednesday.

An additional 2,021 positive test results brought the state’s total COVID-19 cases since March to 631,309. The rate of transmission, or the average number of persons infected by each infectious person, remained stable at .95. Hospitalizations, which have been averaging more than 3,000 patients for weeks, has fallen to 2,986. Of those patients, 525 are in critical care and 374 are on ventilators.

A major cautionary wrinkle in this decision, the governor added, was that new variants of COVID-19 may increase transmission rates in New Jersey. It was announced last month that a mutation of the novel coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom had been identified in New Jersey.

The loosening of restrictions also comes at the start nears 1 million vaccine doses administered. As of Wednesday, more than 837,000 doses had been administered in New Jersey, with more than 691,000 first doses and 146,000-second doses administered. The state’s six vaccination mega-sites have reopened following the winter storm earlier this week.

Thousands of appointments had to be rescheduled due to closures on Monday and Tuesday, New Jersey Department of Health Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Services David Adinaro said Wednesday. Thousands of appointments at the state’s mega-sites had to be rescheduled, he added.

Also on Wednesday, the New Jersey Department of Health reported an additional 52 deaths associated with COVID-19, bringing the total death toll since March to 19,506. Not included in that total are the 2,187 probable deaths that the state believes can be attributed to the virus.

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