New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced new measures to try to control the spread of COVID-19 in response to the increase in cases across the state. Murphy noted in his press briefing Monday that the state has had an average of more than 2,300 new confirmed cases per day over each of the past four days.
Starting on Thursday, Nov. 12, all restaurants, bars, clubs, and lounges must close down indoor dining each day by 10 p.m. Outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery are allowed to continue after 10 p.m.
Murphy said officials have seen an increase in the spread of COVID-19 among patrons seated at bars and bartenders, and therefore all barside seating is prohibited. State health officials said they have seen outbreaks associated with bars. They have visited bars and observed the dynamics that lead to the spread of the virus at barside areas. As the night goes on and people drink more, they stop following safety protocols, officials said. Barside seating is also often too tight and crowded, officials said.
Restaurants and bars will be allowed to place tables closer than six feet together as long as the tables are separated by appropriate barriers. The New Jersey Department of Health will issue guidance for restaurants and bars on appropriate dividers. Murphy also said restaurants and bars will be allowed to offer fully enclosed dining bubbles for outdoor use as the weather gets colder. Only one group is allowed per bubble.
Murphy also said that because of the spread of COVID-19 tied to indoor youth sports like hockey, starting on Thursday, all inter-state games and tournaments up to and including high school games will be prohibited. Murphy said given the increase in cases across the country, it is not safe for teams to be crossing state lines. He said other actions and restrictions could be enacted in the near future, but added that any actions would take a “surgical approach.” He said the last thing anyone wants to do is to shut the economy down.
“The essential thing is that we have to change our mindset,” Murphy said. The country is recording more than 100,000 cases per day every day…We need to take steps to mitigate the increasing rate of spread. I do not want to take the steps we had to take in March. But with our actions, we need to change our mindset, shake off pandemic fatigue, and get back into the mindset that saw us crush the curve in the spring.”
He noted that in New Jersey, confirmed cases are rising again to levels the state experienced months ago, and that the virus is posing the greatest threat to the state it has posed in many months.
The state recorded another 2,075 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in New Jersey to 256,653. A total of 9,534 new confirmed cases have been recorded since Thursday, he said. Murphy said the new confirmed cases have averaged 2,381 per day over the past four days. “The (test) positivity rate is unacceptable at 7.52 percent,” he said.
Another 11 residents of the state have died due to complications from COVID-19, bringing the number of deaths in the state to 14,640 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths and another 1,800 probable COVID-19 related deaths, officials said.
New Jersey hospitals were treating 1,537 patients with COVID-19 as of 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, with 309 COVID-19 patients in intensive care and 94 patients on ventilators. Murphy noted that the last time more than 300 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care in the state was on June 17. Murphy said that there is no question that the numbers are going up in the wrong direction.
“The numbers are proving that the second wave is here. This is our reality,” Murphy said. “We must redouble our efforts and recommit to the practices that have gotten us this far — social distancing, washing our hands with soap and water, wearing face masks. If we can get through these next five to six months, we will be in a strong position to beat the virus with a vaccine on the horizon.”
Murphy said he spoke to Tony Fauci on Saturday, and the vaccine would be distributed in April or May. “Should that time frame hold, we need to plan to be ready to move quickly to vaccinate residents,” Murphy said. “For the upcoming six months — not forever and always — for the six-month window, we need to beat our fatigue back and beat the virus into the ground. We need to beat back the pandemic today, and ultimately defeat it in the spring. We’re in a sprint for the next six months.”
- Murphy said the New Jersey State Police Department will be distributing 2.4 million masks to students, teachers, and staff across the state, with a priority given to students and staff in low-income communities.
- The governor said a record number of residents in the state, 4.3 million, voted in the general election, shattering previous records. Election officials will count ballots through Tuesday and begin counting provisional ballots on Wednesday.
- Murphy said he hopes the Biden administration will make the Gateway Tunnel Project a priority and lift local property tax deduction limits.
- Asked by a reporter how he feels about the state’s bond rating being downgraded by Standard and Poor’s because of the amount of money the state borrows, Murphy said he is not concerned.
- Asked by a reporter whether Murphy would accept a job in the Biden administration, he said he already has his dream job as governor of New Jersey.