Gov. Phil Murphy will be rolling back restrictions on indoor racing the weekend of June 5, larger indoor religious gatherings on June 12, child care on June 15, outdoor organized youth sports on June 22, and youth day camps and summer recreation on July 6.
That comes as the global COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of slowing down in terms of hospitalizations, new cases and fatalities.
As of Friday, there were a total of 158,844 COVID-19 cases, 11,531 fatalities and 2,707 total hospitalizations in New Jersey.
Total hospitalizations, as well as new fatalities and positive cases, are far below their peak in mid-April, according to the Murphy administration.
“We want our children to enjoy their summers,” Murphy said Friday at his daily COVID-19 press briefing at the Trenton War Memorial.
Still, the announcements lack widely-desired guidelines on outdoor sit-down dining— eateries are currently only allowed to serve take-out and delivery, which has shattered their customer-bases. And so-called “non-essential” retail is limited to curbside pickup, as opposed to indoor shopping.
Restrictions have only just been relaxed in the past month, after two months of a near-total shutdown.
Off to the races?
New Jersey has three racetracks: Monmouth Park in Oceanport, Freehold Raceway in Freehold and the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford.
For now, each of them would be closed to spectators in their grandstands, Murphy said, but online betting and patronage would be accessible.
With outdoor sports, contact drills would not be allowed, the governor said, “for the time being.”
Allowing houses of worship to reopen during the pandemic has become a politically contentious issue across the country. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump labeled churches, synagogues and other religious centers as “essential” and pressed governors to allow them to reopen. Gatherings at churches have been limited to 10 people indoors, and more recently, 25 people outdoors in New Jersey.
“As long as our health metrics continue to trend in the right direction, I anticipate being able to raise the limits on indoor gatherings in a way that will allow for greater religious services for the weekend of June 12,” the governor said.
Those sites would need to have “proper safeguards,” Murphy said, cautioning that “we don’t want any opening to have an adverse impact on their communities.”
The Department of Children and Families will put out guidance for reopening daycare centers, Murphy said, and the state’s Department of Health will issue guidelines on allowing day camps. Overnight camps are still barred.
“As we prepare to take the first true steps of our restart and recovery, and as more and more workers prepare to get back out to their jobs, we must ensure a continuum of care for their children,” the governor said.
Daycare centers will need to comply with requirements for social distancing, sanitation and face coverings, and attest that they plan to do so, according to DCF Commissioner Chirstine Norbut Beyer.
They would have to indicate to state officials that they plan to reopen, and would be subject to DCF inspection before that happens, Beyer said. Summer camps would have to follow the same guidelines, she added.
The state’s Department of Human Services will provide $20 million of federal funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act through the end of June for summer camps and childcare centers to afford masks and other personal equipment.