Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced on March 4 that he will be lifting all capacity limits on businesses such as restaurants, gyms, nail and hair salons, offices, and retail effective March 19, but Gov. Phil Murphy has suggested New Jersey will not necessarily follow suit in the near future.
“Our partnership with other states has been really good,” but “it doesn’t mean we all move in lockstep together,” Murphy said at a March 5 press conference in Hudson County.
This week, Murphy announced he was expanding capacity for wedding receptions, nearly a month after expanding capacity at indoor dining, by 35%. Capacity at other indoor businesses such as casinos, theaters, gyms and salons was also increased to 35%.
“We don’t want to lurch forward and have to step back,” the governor added on March 5. “If it weren’t for the variants, I think we would be moving aggressively sooner.”
Granted, the reopening steps Lamont is taking fall way short of those more controversially taken in Texas.
Barside seating is still prohibited, indoor dining is subject to an 11 p.m. curfew, indoor theaters are subject to 50% capacity, and face coverings still need to be worn in public.
The rollbacks on COVID-19 restrictions in New Jersey assume an adequate roll-out of vaccines, and a more muted effect that the highly contagious COVID-19 variants have on public health across the state, the governor warned. So far, the variants have triggered spikes across North and Central Jersey, according to state health officials.
“These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a March 1 White House press briefing. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
State health officials are expecting a surge of available doses around Easter in early April, thanks to the addition of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, on top of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna doses.
Murphy told CNBC in a March 4 interview that he expects a “much more normal summer” on the Jersey Shore in the coming months, as the state coasts down from the second wave and vaccine efforts are ramped up.