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COURTESY NENAD MARIC/PIXABAY Restaurants will be able to resume indoor dining on Sept. 4, and movie theaters will be able to reopen.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Starting on Friday, Sept. 4, New Jersey residents will be able to dine indoors at a restaurant or go see a movie, but in limited crowd numbers and with social distancing and mask wearing enforced. 

On Aug. 31, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that eateries can start offering indoor dining, and movie theaters and indoor performance venues can reopen, but will be subject to capacity limits and social distancing guidelines. 

Eateries are limited to 25 percent capacity. Movie theaters and performance venues are limited to 25 percent capacity or 150 people, whichever lower. 

BID Executive Director Jason Gleason said Montclair restaurant owners are thrilled and attempting to open their doors, literally, for the weekend.

“I think that with only a four-day turnaround to prepare, restaurants, gyms, and venues have a tall mountain to climb with respect to ordering product, and finding and training extra staff, but all-in-all we’re ecstatic to have a major piece of our puzzle back,” he said.

Murphy said officials are happy the reopening coincided with the long holiday weekend. 

New Jersey intended to reopen indoor dining on June 22. However, the decision was reversed due to COVID-19 case increases in states that had decided to allow indoor dining again. 

If the state should see a sustained increase in cases and officials determined that the increase could be connected to indoor dining, the order could be reversed, said Murphy, adding that the state would not be taking the step without the confidence the virus spread had slowed. 

Restaurants are urged to have signage posted and taped-off areas to show social distancing. They are also encouraged to ask for reservations, and customers are asked to wait in their cars if the restaurant’s outside area cannot allow for social distancing. Air conditioners must be positioned to allow intake of outside air, and windows at eateries must be opened to allow for fresh air to enter. Cash registers should have physical barriers at them, and staff must disinfect high-touch surfaces such as condiment containers, menus, tables and credit card machines. 

Restaurants must also conduct health screenings of staff, and train staff in hand washing and sanitizing methods. Restaurants that offer dining service at the bar may also serve at the bar, but groups of people must be six feet apart. 

If the movie theater is a multiplex with multiple screens, each screen will be subject to the capacity limits. Movie theaters will be able to offer concession stands. 

Murphy also announced an increase on the limit of people allowed to attend indoor religious services and ceremonies, as well as political events, now up to 150 people or 25 percent capacity, up from the current limit on 100 people. 

Today’s numbers

Today, Aug. 31, officials reported 352 new cases, compared to 288 on Friday, Aug. 26, bringing the state total to 191,960. The positivity rate is 1.41 percent, compared to 1.99 percent on Friday. The transmission rate stood at 0.90, up from 0.80 on Aug. 26. 

Hospitalizations are up from last week. Last night, Aug. 30, hospitals reported 484 total patients, including 126 critical care patients and 36 ventilators in use. On Thursday, Aug. 25, hospitals reported 425 patients, including 72 critical care patients and 37 ventilators in use. 

Another eight deaths were reported, compared to 11 on Friday, Aug. 26, bringing the state total to 14,165. The number of probable cases remains at 1,780. Hospitals reported 15 additional deaths.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said there were no additional cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, with the number of cases remaining at 56. 

Today, Essex County health officials reported 34 new cases, bringing the county total to 20,060, up from 20,026 on Sunday. The number of deaths was revised downward from 1,861 to 1,860. 

On Aug. 30, Montclair health officials reported five new cases overnight now totaling 504. The number of deaths remain at 54.