NJ reopening: In stark contrast to 2020, Murphy unveils plan to allow proms, graduations
Gov. Murphy said indoor capacity will be raised beginning May 10, and he released new details for proms and graduations. NorthJersey.com
Proms and graduation ceremonies in New Jersey will look considerably more normal this spring — Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced increased gathering limits for outdoor events and for parties at catering halls.
The move comes as key COVID-19 metrics such as new daily cases and hospitalizations have begun to drop in New Jersey after a sizable increase that began in early March and lasted through mid-April.
It is a stark contrast to last spring, when almost every prom was canceled and many graduation ceremonies were postponed well into the summer, if they were held at all.
“This allows us to take steps so that New Jerseyans can have a much more normal summer," Murphy said in a statement.
The changes announced Monday take effect on May 10. They include:
- The outdoor gathering limit will be raised to 500 from 200. Murphy said it may be raised again, "perhaps considerably," around Memorial Day, after which most high school graduations are held.
- Outdoor capacity limits will be raised to 50% capacity for venues with at least 1,000 seats, the size of many school football stadiums, Murphy said. It's a bump up from the current 30% capacity for venues with at least 2,500 seats. Families are required to be 6 feet away from other families.
- Capacity at indoor events, including proms, will be raised to 50% capacity with a maximum of 250 people, up from 35% capacity with 150 people. These events must continue to follow all indoor dining protocols.
- Dance floors can be opened at private catered events, but not yet at bars or nightclubs.
New Jersey is nowhere near where it was this time last spring, when it was averaging more than 200 deaths a day from COVID-19. While progress is being made, the virus is still spreading throughout the state and killing dozens of its residents every week.
New Jersey is second only to Michigan in per capita death rate and new cases over the last seven days, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Murphy's announcement also comes as the number of daily vaccinations administered has begun to decrease in New Jersey. After slowly ramping up since the rollout began in December, vaccinations dropped for the first time two weeks ago, suggesting that demand is waning.
The governor has begun a public relations and advertising campaign to get more shots in people's arms to reach his goal of 4.7 million adults fully vaccinated by the end of June. About 2.8 million New Jerseyans were fully vaccinated as of Monday morning.
Last June, some school districts had "drive-thru" graduations to honor seniors. Many held socially distant ceremonies in July when COVID numbers were in a seasonal decline.
This year some districts have already been planning graduation ceremonies, with the big day less than two months away.
COVID ruined Class of 2021's big year: 'Students feel disconnected' and it's not senioritis.
About 150 students at Cresskill High School will graduate at a ceremony on June 22, said Superintendent Michael Burke. Each student can bring two guests, so it will not exceed the 500-person limit, although Murphy said he may increase outdoor capacity substantially by then if the virus continues to weaken.
Superintendents in Sussex County had been meeting for several months trading ideas on how to handle honoring their seniors.
"I'm glad that we're able to see some flexible guidelines," Craig Hutcheson, superintendent of Kittatinny Regional High School, said of Monday's announcement, before later adding, "although this would have been helpful two months ago."
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Gov. Murphy talks about restaurants: "Outdoor dining is not subject to any numerical capacity limitation." NorthJersey.com
Fairs, carnivals and camps
Murphy made some other reopening moves Monday.
On May 10, carnivals and fairs can operate at 50% capacity, he said.
The governor said he will sign an executive order on Wednesday that will outline guidance for day camps and overnight camps.
Murphy said he may soon increase indoor capacity at restaurants, which is now at 50%.
"If the numbers keep going the way they're going, we'll have news about that sooner than later," he said.
Staff Writers Kyle Morel and Ricardo Kaulessar contributed to this article.
Scott Fallon covers the environment for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about how New Jersey’s environment affects your health and well-being, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.