BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Gov. Phil Murphy put the re-opening of indoor dining on pause indefinitely Monday, after a number of other states have seen surges in COVID-19 cases after allowing indoor dining, such as in South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, California, Florida and Nevada. Restaurants in New Jersey had been expected to offer indoor service at limited capacity beginning this Thursday, July 2.
He also noted that some eateries and bars in New Jersey are encouraging “knucklehead behavior” by not requiring social distancing, and allowing for crowds of customers without face masks.
“After COVID-19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely,” he said at the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing Monday, June 29.
“Moving inside” is dangerous and challenging, he said. Even at 25 percent capacity, he pointed to the sedentary nature that comes with dining, with customers sitting in close proximity and without face masks, which create conditions where the virus could spread more easily. Ventilation systems and air conditioning are also of concern.
The move will also affect the reopening of wedding and special occasion halls.
Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control reported a more than 41 percent increase in COVID-19 positives throughout the U.S. compared to a week prior. In 34 states, cases are increasing by more than 5 percent.
He credited the towns that have “gotten creative and worked with restaurant owners” to expand their footprint to welcome more outdoor diners and at safe distances.
On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state is likely to delay allowing restaurants to open their doors as well.
With the state allowing for outdoor graduations beginning July 6, and the need to continue social distancing, wear face masks and quarantine when coming back from states where COVID is on the rise, the governor also pointed to a case involving a graduation ceremony in Westchester County, New York, in which a student who prior to the ceremony had visited Florida is believed to have spread COVID. The student subsequently began showing symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. Since the graduation, four more individuals who attended the drive-thru-only ceremony also tested positive.
Murphy strongly suggested residents quarantine for 14 days after returning from any of the hotspot states, which currently include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
Today, June 29, New Jersey officials reported 18 new deaths down from the 34 new deaths reported on Saturday, bringing the state’s total of confirmed COVID-related deaths to 13,138. The number does not include 1,854 “probable” deaths related to the virus which were reported last week.
The number of new cases reported today was at 156, down from the 309 reported on Sunday. The total number of cases has reached 171,272. But Murphy said the system was reporting a technical glitch, so the numbers may not reflect the true number of new cases.
The positivity rate is now at 1.92 percent compared to 2.1 percent on Friday. The rate of transmission from person-to-person remains at 0.86.
On Sunday evening, hospitalizations dropped to 978 compared to 1,014 on Saturday. The number of patients in ICU and on ventilators remained the same at 225 and 185 respectively. Forty-five patients entered the hospital and 70 were sent home.
On Monday, Essex County officials reported 12 new cases, down from the 14 reported yesterday, for a total of 18,707. The county death count remains at 1,775.
Montclair Health Department officials reported on Monday an increase of two new cases, now totaling 445; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 52.