Gov. Phil Murphy announced capacity limit would be increased to various indoor gatherings—including dining—in New Jersey effective Feb. 5.
“While some of our numbers are still high, we believe that we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress on our healthcare system,” stated Murphy as a press briefing Feb. 3. “We feel confident in signing this order because of the recent trends in our hospitals and our rate of transmission.”
The executive order increases capacity limits to 35% from the current 25% and allows restaurants to stay open past 10 p.m. While the 10 p.m. curfew is lifted on a statewide basis, local municipalities are allowed to put in place their own restrictions on the hours of operation depending on local health metrics.
Bar Area Off-limits
But Murphy said customers will still not be allowed to sit at indoor bar areas because “it creates the danger of close and prolonged proximity between patrons, bartenders, and servers.”
Besides bars and restaurants, the order allows gyms, casinos, personal care businesses, and amusement and recreation facilities to operate at 35% of their capacity as well.
Additionally, indoor performance venues, political activities, and gatherings for religious ceremonies and services including wedding ceremonies, memorial services and funerals can be held at the new capacity limit with a maximum of 150 individuals.
The move comes as Republcian lawmakers had pushed for capacity increase and getting rid of the 10 p.m. curfew for the Super Bowl to be played this Sunday and Valentine’s Day the following weekend.
“I want to thank the Governor for listening to our common sense arguments that keeping the existing indoor dining restrictions and early 10 p.m. curfew would have driven more people to house parties where they could watch the full game,” said State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) after the announcement. “The old restrictions no longer make sense when you consider the protocols that have been established and the resulting data. This success gives us added motivation to continue fighting for all of the businesses that are still struggling under outdated COVID-19 rules.”
In increasing indoor limits for the first time since September 2020, Murphy noted while other states have gone back and forth with expansion and closing down indoor dining, restaurants in New Jersey have been able to keep their doors open.
Health Data Improving
The governor held firm when questioned if it was dates and not data determining decisions related to the coronavirus, noting discussions had been underway for the last 10 days about whether to proceed with the move.
“We are able to take this step today because the data says we can,” Murphy said, pointing to a decline in hospitalizations by 20% over the last three weeks. “We had been asked to do this last weekend.”
When questioned if the 20% decline in hospitalization was a blueprint officials would use going forward, Murphy explained the statistic was used more as an example of the health numbers moving in the right direction.
Plan Going Forward?
“I can’t promise you that, ‘Down by x leads to y,’ but if the numbers keep going down there’s no question, our strong desire…will be to continue to open things up,” he stated.
Murphy reminded residents that while capacity limitations were being raised, other health protocols at restaurants and bars remain in place—including masks being worn except when eating and drinking as well as restaurants still having to space their tables out.
The governor said the expansion was not an invitation to let New Jerseyans “let it rip” at Super Bowl parties this Sunday,“Please do that responsibly.”
On Feb. 3, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 631,309 with 2,021 total new PCR cases reported. There were 508 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 74,492. The total number of individual cases for the state is 705,801. Gov. Murphy noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 52 new deaths, bringing that total to 19,506. The state listed probable deaths at 2,187, bringing the overall total to 21,693. State officials noted 45 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties, Bergen had a total of 211 new confirmed cases and 57 probable cases, Essex 136 new cases and 57 probable cases, Hudson 201 new cases and 12 probable cases, Morris 105 new cases and and 13 probable cases, Passaic 78 new cases and 31 probable cases, Sussex 16 new cases and seven probable cases, and Warren 32 cases and four probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,295, followed by Bergen at 2,215, Hudson with 1,698, Passaic at 1,444, Morris at 851, Sussex at 200 and Warren County at 184.
In regards to probable deaths as of Feb. 3, Bergen has 273, Essex has 257, Morris at 216, Hudson has 173, Passaic at 163, Sussex has 57 and Warren has 16.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Jan. 30, was 11.7%; by region, the rate was 11.3% in the North, 12.1% in the Central region and 11.9% in the South. 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.
As for the rate of transmission, it remained unchanged from the three day in a row at 0.95. 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 2,986 patients were hospitalized; 2,820 cases were confirmed and 166 are under investigation. By region, there were 1,336 in the North, 922 in the Central and 728 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 525 are in intensive care units and 374 on ventilators. A total of 162 patients were discharged, while 288 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 61,012, followed by Essex at 60,680, Middlesex at 60,742, Hudson at 57,280, Passaic at 47,823, Union at 44,994, Monmouth at 45,314, Ocean at 45,546, Camden at 36,772, Burlington at 28,282, Morris at 28,192, Mercer at 23,969, Gloucester at 19,354, Atlantic at 17,533, Somerset at 16,573, Cumberland at 10,925, Sussex at 7,023, Warren at 5,594, Hunterdon at 5,455, Salem at 3,939, and Cape May at 3,258.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,122, followed by Union at 6,746, Ocean at 5,475, Essex at 5,283, Hudson at 4,707, Morris at 4,661, Monmouth at 4,443, Atlantic at 4,417, Middlesex at 4,277, Passaic at 4,068, Camden at 4,026, Somerset at 3,627, Burlington at 3,752, Cape May at 3,069, Gloucester at 2,817, Cumberland at 2,076, Mercer at 1,361, Sussex at 950, Warren at 598, Hunterdon at 543, and Salem 433.
Another 1,049 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 137 outbreaks involving 655 cases, with six new outbreaks accounting for 58 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 3, have been reported in all 21 counties in the Garden State.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 31 confirmed outbreaks with 126 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has five confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases and Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 423 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,167 of the cases, broken down between 7,040 residents and 7,121 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,226 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 31,784 residents and 20,345 staff, for a total of 52,129 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,780 on Feb. 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,691 residents deaths and 142 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 837,228 as of Feb. 3. Of those who have received the vaccine, 691,229 residents have received their first dose with 145,979 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 60% of those vaccinated are women and 40% men. As for ethnicity, 48% are White, 19% unknown, 19% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 3% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 35% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 27% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 90,656 doses, Essex 67,441 doses, Hudson 37,919 doses, Morris 61,596 doses, Passaic 39,482 doses, Sussex 13,817 doses, and Warren 8,328 doses.