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Gov. Phil Murphy Approves Indoor Dining, Movie Theaters to Open Sept. 4

Just in time for that last weekend of summer, indoor dining will be allowed in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy said restaurants will be able to open for indoor dining beginning Sept. 4 at 25% capacity among other regulations tailored to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

“Reopening responsibly will help us restore one of our state’s key industries while continuing to make progress against COVID-19,” said Murphy at a press briefing Aug. 31. 

On the same day as restaurants are allowed to offer indoor dining, movie theaters and other indoor performance venues can reopen their doors. Mandates for facilities to open include face masks and social distancing requirements as well as capacity capped at the lesser of either 25% capacity, or 150 people.

Capacity Limits

Each showing in a multi-plex will be subject to capacity limits of 25% capacity or 150 people for each screen.

Additionally, the capacity limits for the indoor gatherings are being raised to the lesser of either 25% capacity or 150 individuals for religious services and celebrations, weddings, funerals, memorial services and political activities.

“We’ve been working hard for several months to get to this point,” stated Murphy. “Our job now is to ensure that this reopening only leads to future announcements expanding the indoor capacity limits, and that we do not have to take a step backward. Everyone must pull together.”

Second Re-opening

This is the second time Murphy has approved for indoor dining to commence. Scheduled to reopen at the 25% capacity limit July 2, the governor rolled back those plans just days before due to coronavirus outbreaks across the nation that were traced back to indoors bars and restaurants.

State officials have maintained that indoor dining facilities would not be reopened until certain health data—including rate of transmission, daily infection rates and new hospitalizations—showed sustained levels low enough to allow indoor activities.

The first-term Democratic governor said he never thought it would take two months to get back to opening restaurants when he first made the decision to delay restaurant openings.

Shorter Notice

“It is why we gave a shorter runway this time,” said Murphy, adding the state would take a deeper investigation if they had to roll back indoor dining to find the source of rising numbers were from restaurants or somewhere else.

The move comes a day before gyms in New Jersey were allowed to open under new protocols, including capacity limitations, face coverings, social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

Those gyms guidelines, Murphy said, will look similar to what rules restaurants will have to follow.

Restaurant Rules

The governor highlighted some new rules for dining, noting restaurant that staff, wearing masks, will be the only ones allowed to serve food or beverages. Patrons are prohibited from leaving their table to go to the bar to get another drink or place an order for a dish.

Seating will be limited to a maximum of eight customers per table. Restaurants that provide food service at their bars may allow patrons to dine at the bar in a socially distant way. Any group seated together at the bar is capped at four individuals.

One other item the governor highlighted is the mandating of strict ventilation. Windows at food establishments must be opened to ensure a proper flow of fresh air into the dining areas. And air conditioner units must be turned so that they’re allowing for the maximum amount of outdoor air to be introduced to the dining area.

Daily Data

As of Aug. 31, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 191,960 with 352 new cases and four new deaths, bringing that total to 14,165. The state probable death count remained at 1,780, bringing the overall total to 15,945.

State officials noted 15 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,884, followed by Bergen at 1,790, Hudson with 1,347, Passaic at 1,103, Morris at 685, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 229, Hudson has 160, Morris at 144, Passaic at 142, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Aug. 27 was 1.4%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. By region, the north tested at 1.2%, the central at 1.1% and the south 2.5%. 

As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 0.90 from 0.88 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 484 patients are hospitalized, with 253 confirmed cases and 231 patients under investigation for having coronavirus. The north tier had 246 patients hospitalized, the central 99 and the south 139.

Of those hospitalized, 103 are in intensive care units and 36 on ventilators, while 40 patients were discharged. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 21,557, followed by Essex at 20,301, Hudson at 20,131, Middlesex at 18,432, Passaic at 18,327, Union at 17,077, Ocean at 11,145, Monmouth at 10,710, Camden at 9,142, Mercer at 8,326, Morris at 7,474, Burlington at 6,382, Somerset at 5,400, Atlantic at 3,739, Gloucester at 3,668, Cumberland at 3,560, Warren at 1,392, Sussex at 1,394, Hunterdon at 1,212, Salem at 980 and Cape May at 898.

Another 364 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for confirmed deaths shows 48% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 31% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 170 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 10,859 of the cases, broken down between 6,800 residents and 4,059 staff. 

Cumulatively, 652 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,915 residents and 13,295 staff, for a total of 38,210 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,085 on Aug. 31. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,750 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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