New Jersey Easing Numerous Coronavirus Restrictions, Including Indoor Dining, Bar Areas, Starting May 7

In its most significant move to reopen the state in 14 months, New Jersey in coordination with New York and Connecticut will eliminate many of their biggest coronavirus restrictions on May 19.

Additionally, Gov. Phil Murphy announced capacity limits set to rise on May 10 will be moved up three days with a couple of additions, including the reopening of seating in restaurant bar areas. 

“With our COVID-19 numbers, particularly hospitalizations, trending decisively in the right direction and our vaccination goals within reach, now is the time to take major steps to reopen our economy and loosen both indoor and outdoor gathering and capacity restrictions,” said Murphy at a press briefing on May 3. 

May 7 Movement

“The fact that we can do so much at this time is because (New Jerseyans) have done so much over the past year to help us crush the curves and position ourselves for victory against this pandemic,” added Murphy. 

The new opening dates for May 7 include:

  • The prohibition on indoor bar seating will be lifted, with final guidance on safeguards on spacing and the use of plexiglass to follow from the New Jersey Department of Health;
  • Outdoor gatherings limit will increase to 500 persons, up from 200;
  • Large venue outdoor capacity will increase to 50% for venues with 1,000 fixed seats or more, as long as six feet of distance is maintained, up from 30% capacity for venues with a 2,500 fixed seating capacity; 
  • Increase in maximum capacity for certain indoor activities, including proms, will be raised to 50%, up to a maximum of 250 individuals, up from 35% and 150 people respectively. The capacity limit for indoor political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and performances will increase accordingly; 
  • Dance floors would be permitted to open at such events, with masking and social distancing requirements in place. Dance floors would remain closed at bars and other related businesses, such as nightclubs;
  • Carnivals and fairs are permitted to operate at the amusement business capacity. Previously, these events may be treated like a gathering, and thus subject to more restrictive limits; and 
  • The restriction on self-service food, like buffets, at restaurants, would be lifted, but individuals will still be required to remain seated while eating and drinking.

“We feel confident in moving up this timetable by three days, given the accelerated progress we are seeing in our vaccination program and hospital metrics, and lower daily case counts,” Murphy said.

Finazling Guidance

Murphy said the state’s Department of Health the guidance for bar seating and buffets is still being finalized. He noted all restaurants and bars must keep six feet distance between groups at bars or install physical partitions, but was hopeful the CDC would reduce the social distancing rules some time soon.

“We are counting on restaurants and bar owners to enforce this guidance and prevent congregating at the bar, as we have warned all along that those situations present a high danger of allowing the virus to spread,” he said.

May 19 Openings

Then, in coordination with New York and Connecticut, the restrictions being eased on May 19 will include: 

  • Indoor dining will remove the 50% limitation but maintain the six feet of required distance between tables, except where restaurants use partitions that comply with DOH requirements. Additionally, the prohibition on tables of more than eight persons will be lifted; 
  • Any business, whether indoors or outdoors, that is subject to a percentage capacity limitation will instead be guided by the rule regarding six feet of distance between persons or groups of persons. This would include houses of worship, retail businesses, gyms, personal care services, indoor and outdoor amusement and recreation businesses, and indoor and outdoor pools, which are currently limited to 50% capacity;
  • Complete removal of outdoor gathering limit with attendees required to remain six feet apart from other groups; 
  • General indoor gathering limit will be raised to 50 persons, up from 25 persons. The limit applies to general social gatherings, such as birthday parties and events in people’s homes; 
  • Conferences, expositions, meetings of fraternal organizations, job trainings and events hosted by senior centers will be subject to the 250-person indoor gathering limit that applies to indoor catered events, as long as all attendees can remain six feet apart;
  • Indoor catered events, funerals, memorial services, performances, and political activities 250-person limit will remain in place, but there will be no percentage-based capacity restrictions. Individuals and groups will need to remain six feet apart; and
  • Capacity limit for indoor large venues will increase to 30% from 20% and the definition of a large venue would shift from those with 2,500 fixed seats to those with 1,000 fixed seats. The requirement that individuals or groups of individuals that purchase tickets together remain six feet apart would remain in place.

“We’ve done this the right way, in partnership with our neighboring states of New York and Connecticut, and by allowing data, science, and public health to guide our decision-making,” said Murphy.

“Those steps are very likely to happen but are predicated on the health front,” concluded Murphy. “This is not the end of the journey. Let’s keep on this journey one step at a time.”

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 7,135,235 in state, plus an additional 357,974 administered out of of state for a grand total of 7,493,209 as of May 3, Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,112,697 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and other 156,261 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 3,268,958. 

Demographically, 55% of those vaccinated are women and 45% men. As for ethnicity, 55% are White, 11% Hispanic, 10% Asian, 9% other, 8% unknown and 6% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 33% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 27% are between the ages of 30-49, and 12% are between the ages of 16-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 790,190 doses (348,227 fully vaccinated), Essex 568,469 doses (241,631), Morris 487,085 doses (217,007), Hudson 471,744 doses (195,611), Passaic 343,718 doses (147,156), Sussex 110,109 doses (47,433), and Warren 70,127 doses (30,075). 

Daily Data

As of May 3, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 876,141 with 880 total new PCR cases reported. There were 197 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 124,852. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,000,993. Gov. Murphy previously 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 16 new deaths, bringing that total to 22,991. The state listed probable deaths at 2,625, bringing the overall total to 25,616. State officials noted 18 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on May 3, Bergen had a total of 68 new confirmed cases and 28 probable cases, Essex 76 new cases and 17 probable cases, Hudson 78 new cases and 17 probable cases, Morris 54 new cases and nine probable cases, Passaic 35 new cases and 13 probable cases, Sussex 23 new cases and eight probable cases, and Warren 10 cases and no new probable cases.

There are a total of 2,959 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 2,721 cases of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), 141 cases of the California variants (B.1.429 and B.1.427), 91 cases of the Brazilian (P.1) variant, and six cases of the South African (B.1351) variant. 

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,611, followed by Bergen at 2,534, Hudson with 2,011, Passaic at 1,673, Morris at 964, Sussex at 229 and Warren County at 209.

In regards to probable deaths reported April 28, Essex has 295, Bergen has 295, Morris has 251, Hudson has 212, Passaic has 195, Sussex has 67 and Warren has 25.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission, it declined to 0.37 from 0.42 the day before. Gov. Murphy believed the number is artificially low due to the recent subtraction of duplicate cases. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of April 29, was 4.9%; by region, the rate was 4.5% in the North, 4.8% in the Central region and 6.8% in the South. 

Officials reported 1,424 patients were hospitalized; 1,317 cases were confirmed and 107 are under investigation. By region, there were 682, in the North, 368 in the Central and 374 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 325 are in intensive care units and 197 on ventilators. A total of 148 patients were discharged, while 128 were admitted.

Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 88,276, followed by Essex at 84,125, Middlesex at 83,950, Hudson at 78,049, Monmouth at 66,583, Ocean at 64,825, Passaic at 64,541, Union at 59,649, Camden at 47,803, Morris at 41,567, Burlington at 37,589, Mercer at 31,080, Gloucester at 25,937, Atlantic at 24,524, Somerset at 23,889, Cumberland at 14,291, Sussex at 11,437, Warren at 8,706, Hunterdon at 8,660, Salem at 5,386, and Cape May at 4,522.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 13,011, followed by Union at 10,804, Ocean at 9,967, Essex at 9,242, Hudson at 9,031, Morris at 8,023, Monmouth at 7,925, Middlesex at 7,275, Passaic at 7,132, Atlantic at 6,534, Burlington at 6,377, Camden at 6,360, Somerset at 5,626, Cape May at 4,468, Gloucester at 3,864, Mercer at 2,305, Cumberland at 2,214, Sussex at 2,211, Warren at 988, Hunterdon at 868 and Salem 524.

Another 752 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 263 outbreaks involving 1,157 cases have been reported, with 18 new outbreaks accounting for 63 cases in the weekly update on April 27. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 52 confirmed outbreaks with 198 cases, Passaic County has 16 confirmed outbreaks with 52 cases, Sussex has 14 confirmed outbreaks with 55 cases, Warren has 14 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has five confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 218 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 5,771 of the cases, broken down between 2,467 residents and 3,304 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,424 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,858 residents and 22,108 staff, for a total of 54,966 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,030 on May 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,875 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.


  1. Hee, hee! I support Gov. Murphy. But I admit you just gave me – a great laugh! And on a more serious note, I understand why landlords in our state, want all landlord tenant courts, quickly reopened!

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