NJ announces new COVID-19 restrictions at bars, restaurants

New Jersey bars and restaurants must close indoor dining by 10 p.m., Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday as part of a series of new restrictions in response to rising in COVID-19 cases in the state.

At his daily coronavirus press briefing, Murphy said state officials were trying to take minimally invasive measures to mitigate the spread of the virus that has killed at least 14,640 residents as of Monday.

“We have to shake off the pandemic fatigue that I know we all feel – I feel it, too – and we have to get back into the mindset that saw us crush the curve in the spring,” Murphy said in prepared remarks.

As part of that effort, the governor said all restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges that serve food and alcohol must shut down indoor areas by 10 p.m. daily. Those locations cannot reopen until at least 5 a.m. the following day, Murphy said.

Outdoor dining, however, can continue past 10 p.m., as well as takeout and delivery services, according to the new guidance.

The measure also applies to casinos, although gaming operations can continue unaffected, Murphy said.

Indoor seating at bars will also be banned, effective Thursday, “at all hours for the immediate future,” according to Murphy’s prepared remarks.

“Now, because we know some restaurants have relied upon bar seating to allow themselves to reach the 25 percent capacity limit, we will allow restaurants to now meet that limit by placing tables closer than 6 feet, but only if they are separated by barriers,” Murphy’s prepared remarks read.

New indoor dining guidance on requirements for the dividers will issued by the Department of Health, Murphy said.

Heated dining bubbles will also now be allowed for use by one group of diners at a time – but the enclosures must be sanitized after each use, the governor announced.

“These measures are being taken to help provide our restaurants with greater flexibility as the weather trends cooler,” Murphy said in prepared remarks.

The governor also announced a ban beginning Thursday on all interstate games and tournaments for indoor youth sports for elementary, middle and high school students, saying they create a higher risk of transmission for the entire team.

“It is simply 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 in prepared remarks.

Murphy, who spoke to Dr. Anthony Fauci over the weekend, said he anticipates a vaccine being distributed by spring.

“And should that timeframe hold, as we discussed two weeks ago, we have the plan ready to move quickly to vaccinate residents,” Murphy said in prepared remarks.

An additional 2,075 positive cases were reported Monday, bringing New Jersey’s total since March to 256,653. Eleven confirmed COVID-19 related deaths were also reported, raising the state’s confirmed death toll to 14,640 – with another 1,800 deaths listed as probable, according to Murphy’s remarks.

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