Gov. Phil Murphy said he plans to put out guidelines early next week for how businesses along the beach, high school graduations and the broader summer tourism industry can operate amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
His announcement comes as the Jersey Shore – an enormous cash cow bringing in tens of billions of dollars in economic activity each year – eyes how it can navigate COVID-19 restrictions, pandemic hesitancy and pent-up consumer demand coming out of the pandemic.
Memorial Day, often considered the unofficial start of the summer season, is just over a month away. It is not immediately clear what this new guidance will entail.
“We also owe people our best guess as to what it’s going to look like for graduations, summer, beaches,” the governor said during an April 21 COVID-19 press briefing.
“Assuming our numbers continue to go in the right direction – and our prospects and optimism remain high, we’re going to give a pretty significant amount of guidance by early to mid next week,” he said.
Murphy paused many business restrictions after a slew of reopenings in February and early March as the onslaught of a third wave, driven by several highly contagious variants, drove up cases and hospitalizations.
But those numbers have plateaued in recent weeks, suggesting that this latest wave may have finally hit its peak and will continue to coast down. A moderate-case scenario calls for a peak in hospitalizations and daily new cases around mid-April, after which those metrics decline over May.
The governor yesterday suggested an “incremental” reopening if those numbers continued to head in the right direction, after Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he was lifting most COVID-19 restrictions as of May 1, save for the mask mandate.
“We don’t want to lurch … in other words, gone forward and then pull something back. We don’t want to start that now,” Murphy said on Wednesday.
Nearly 2.6 million people are fully vaccinated, and the governor’s goal is to push that number to 4.7 million adults by June 30. A total of 6.2 million vaccine doses have been administered.
We don’t want to lurch … in other words, gone forward and then pull something back. We don’t want to start that now.
– Gov. Phil Murphy
As of April 21, the state logged 2,961 new cases and 2,114 COVID-19 patients, breaking a six-day streak of declining hospitalizations.
The rate of transmission, or how fast the virus spreads, ticked up from 0.92 to 0.93 as of April 21. Anything above 1 means that the virus is spreading. And the positivity rate was 10.94%, based on 21,242 tests.
At the moment, outdoor gatherings are limited to 250 people, while large venues with at least 2,500 seats are capped at 30% capacity outdoors and 15% capacity indoors.
Indoor and outdoor capacity at amusement parks and water parks is limited to 50%. Casinos are also restricted to 50% capacity, as are indoor dining and retail stores. Restaurants and bars cannot offer barside seating, but the prevalence of outdoor dining has helped keep many establishments afloat.
Hotels and motels do not have any capacity restrictions, but like any other business are bound to mask requirements, social distancing and sanitization protocols.