Here's what you can and can't do under NJ COVID restrictions
Charles Cumpston, of Fort Lee, talks about what he has missed in the past six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. NorthJersey.com
As the feared second wave of COVID-19 starts to take hold of New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is faced with familiar yet difficult decisions on how to curb the spread of the virus.
Murphy said he hopes to avoid shutting down the economy a second time — which thousands of small businesses likely wouldn't survive — but has held firm that restrictions will be put back in place if need be.
Here is what you can and can't do in New Jersey with current COVID-19 restrictions:
The outdoor gathering limit was dropped to 25 people, effective Dec. 7. The limit was reduced from 150.
Ten days before Thanksgiving, Murphy cut down the indoor gathering limit from 25 to 10, likely disrupting the holiday plans of many as cases surge. Outdoor gatherings were also lowered, chopped down from 500 to 150.
"With the holidays coming up, we've got to plead with people to not let their hair down," Murphy said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
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The restrictions came after the weekend of Nov. 14 in which New Jersey broke its record number of cases, with nearly 9,000 over the two days.
Indoor dining rules
Indoor dining survived the first wave of new restrictions, although there will be a curfew of 10 p.m. for indoor dining at restaurants, bars and clubs. Outdoor dining and takeout will be able to continue after that time. Bar-area seating is prohibited.
The capacity limitations remain the same at 25%, but Murphy is now allowing restaurants to put tables closer than 6 feet apart as long as they are separated by dividers, in an effort to help eateries that sacrificed potential space for customers for the previous guidelines.
Murphy also approved the use of outdoor "dining bubbles," frequently referred to as igloos, where a small group of people can eat inside.
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Casinos will now have to stop serving food and drinks at 10 p.m., but gambling will continue to be allowed 24 hours a day.
Indoor sports on hold
Hockey and all indoor sports were postponed until at least Jan. 1.
All interstate indoor youth games and tournaments are prohibited. The rules apply to sports through high school, Murphy said. Indoor sports, especially hockey, present a greater likelihood of transmission, he said.
"It simply is not safe for teams to be crossing state lines to participate in indoor competitions where there is a serious risk of spreading the virus," Murphy said.
Gyms open with masks and limited capacity
Gyms were also spared any new restrictions, as they have been currently operating at 25% capacity with a mask mandate, among a slew of other preventive measures. The opening of gyms on Sept. 1 was long awaited by gym owners and gym goers, as it was one of the last business types to get the green light. That delay led to several reports of gym owners secretly allowing people inside and to one gym in Bellmawr openly defying Murphy.
Movie theaters continue to operate at 25% capacity with required masks and a 150 total person limit.
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Social distancing while shopping
Non-essential retail reopened in June with pandemic precautions: face masks, social distancing and limits on the number of shoppers allowed in at a time.
Depending on the store, appointments or changed layouts may have been instituted.
Nursing home visits by appointment
New Jersey will continue to allow indoor visits at nursing homes if a facility has not had an outbreak in 14 days, down from the previous benchmark of 28 days.
Visits are by appointment only, and other criteria include logging visitors and screening them for signs of illness, getting consent from residents and posting outbreak plans at each facility. Visitors must also socially distance and, along with residents, wear masks. No contact, such as hugging and kissing, is allowed, according to the Health Department.
Major cities enforce stricter rules
Murphy has not implemented a statewide curfew, but Newark, the state's largest city, adopted one on Tuesday for certain parts of the city. Mayor Ras Baraka announced that three ZIP codes within Newark will be subject to a mandatory 9 p.m. curfew on weekdays and 10 p.m. curfew on weekends. Baraka previously announced that all non-essential businesses must close at 8 p.m., including restaurants, which must cease outdoor services by 11 p.m. if they aren't in the ZIP codes with curfews.
The city of Paterson took similar measures, announcing a midnight curfew for bars, restaurants and clubs.
Personal care services remain limited
Personal care services are still allowed and will be operating on their usual restrictions. The businesses, such as nail salons and barbershops, will operate at 25% capacity, per Murphy's executive order on Tuesday.
Personal care shops were eagerly anticipated after the initial shutdown in March, as small-business owners struggled to make ends meet and residents clamored for the services after months without them.
Anthony Zurita is a breaking news reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all the major news happening in North Jersey, subscribe here. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.