New Jersey bars and restaurants caught with big crowds violating social distancing rules in recently reopened and expanded outdoor dining spaces can expect a heavy crackdown after viral videos surfaced last weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
“Folks should know that we can’t look the other way on this,” Murphy said during his coronavirus briefing in Trenton. “Can you blame people for coming out and letting their hair down a little bit? … But we are going to have to tighten up.”
Murphy said he and acting State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan reviewed social media videos showing violations of the outdoor dining rules that went into effect last week and plan to take action. Callahan called the crowds a “tremendous cause for concern.”
In Belmar, D’Jais Bar and Grill was “read … the riot act” by the town’s mayor after pictures and videos were shared on social media that showed large crowds gathered closely together. People not in the same household are supposed to stay 6 feet apart from one another, per the governor’s order.
In Morristown, Tashmoo Bar & Restaurant had its outdoor dining license revoked after overcrowding on Friday night, local officials said in a statement.
“This stuff is out of bounds,” Murphy said. “Too many viral videos for my taste.”
In general, Murphy said there’s not enough people wearing masks in crowded outdoor areas like beaches and boardwalks.
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“The face covering compliance is very low,” Murphy said. “We’d love to see that get amped up.”
Murphy announced Monday that indoor dining and Atlantic City casinos could reopen July 2, just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, but warned that could change if there’s a resurgence of cases.
“If the current trends in our health metrics change between now and next Thursday, we will hit pause on the current plan,” Murphy said. “That’s the last thing I want to do – so let’s keep using common sense for the common good.
Murphy made the comments the same day he announced COVID-19 now led to at least 12,896 deaths with 169,415 total confirmed cases as of Monday. The latest numbers include more than 25 new deaths and 350 new cases.
The outbreak, however, has slowed enough for Murphy to announce additional restrictions will be lifted in the coming weeks. Indoor dining and Atlantic City casinos may reopen at 25% capacity on July 2, just before the Fourth of July weekend. He also increased, effective immediately, the limit on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 200 people and indoor gatherings are now capped at 25% of capacity with a maximum of 100 people.
New Jersey entered the second week of Stage 2 reopening Monday as barbershops and beauty salons began serving customers, youth sports were allowed to resume and private swim clubs and municipal pools could open for the summer.
New Jersey, a densely populated state of 9 million residents, ranks second among U.S. states in total deaths, after New York. California has now surpassed New Jersey for the second-most cases in the country.
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