Despite New York City and the entire state of Pennsylvania clamping down on indoor dining in a bid to control surges of COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy maintained on Friday that New Jersey will still not follow suit.
“We are still staying with what we’ve got,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a COVID-19 press briefing Friday afternoon in Trenton. That means 25% indoor capacity, and orders to halt indoor dining at 10 p.m.
The indoor dining ban goes into effect on Monday for New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced, meaning restaurants will be limited to takeout and outdoor dining.
Dining outside of New York City can continue at 25% capacity, the same as New Jersey. Murphy suggested that New Jersey’s makeup is much similar to suburban areas like Westchester County and Long Island, where indoor dining will still be permitted.
Pennsylvania’s ban goes into effect Dec. 12, and will last through Jan 4, 2021, and extends to high school sports, gyms and casinos, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.
But the governor of New Jersey maintained that the state needs a far more “surgical” approach, like crackdowns on bars and eateries violating the state’s COVID-19 safety protocols.
The attorney general’s office is seeking liquor license suspensions for 10 such establishments across the state.
“We are trying to be as surgical as we can,” the governor said. “If you’re not doing the right thing, it may not be tomorrow, but we’re going to find out.”
Whether patrons would flock from New York City and Pennsylvania for indoor dining beginning next week remains to be seen, but Murphy said that the prospect is at least a possibility he has entertained.
“People coming over the Hudson or the Delaware, we’ve just got to watch that very closely.”
Surging cases and hospitalizations have prompted speculation about what restrictions might be reimposed to bring the virus under control. Indoor dining has frequently come up.
In recent days, Murphy has publicly suggested banning elective surgeries to free up manpower in the state’s health care infrastructure.
“As we’ve said, protecting the ability of our health care system to treat the ill is our paramount concern,” the governor said on Wednesday. “And if the numbers begin to roll in where that ability is put into question … we will have no choice but to act.”
Unlike the first wave where the state found itself scrambling for personal protective equipment and hospital beds, this time health officials are faced with the prospect of who would staff hospitals and other health care centers if too many medical workers become infected with COVID-19.
During the spring, medical volunteers from across the country flocked to New Jersey to provide relief as it became ground zero for the first wave. With the virus surging in the entire country, that option is no longer available, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
Daily cases have hit all-time record highs since Thanksgiving, as the state finds itself well within a second wave.
While that increase is partially due to vastly ramped up testing capacity compared to what New Jersey had in the spring, metrics such as hospitalizations, ventilator-usage, critical care patient count and daily fatalities have all moved in alarming directions.