NEW JERSEY - The governor of New Jersey plans to ease coronavirus restrictions as cases and hospitalizations decrease and coronavirus vaccinations increase before a major reopening later in the month.
Effective May 7, bar seating can resume across the state. Also, buffets and other self-service foods at restaurants will be allowed to open on that date.
Also that date, the governor has moved up increasing limits for outdoor gatherings to 500 people, indoor room capacities to 50% with a maximum of 250 people for private catered events, political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and performances.
Dance floors will be allowed to reopen at private caters events. Outdoor capacity for large venues of 1,000 or more fixed seats will increase to 50%
New Jersey will begin a major reopening on May 19 with most COVID capacity restrictions to be lifted, Gov. Phil Murphy also announced at a Monday afternoon news conference.
With continued declining rates of the coronavirus, the governor said that it was time to allow houses of worship, retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barbershops, and offices to fully reopen as long as they can ensure a minimum six-foot distance between groups.
"We will simply require that all attendees at any outdoor event keep social distances of at least 6 feet and current mask requirements will remain in place," Murphy said
The limit on outdoor gatherings will be lifted on that date.
The announcement came about 2 hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced similar openings in New York that were part of a regional plan.
Sports stadiums will initially be capped at 33% under the new rules but the plan is to work to increase the number of people who can attend.
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The reopening plan comes after more than 7 million residents have received at least a partial vaccination for COVID-19.
Murphy had hinted about the announcement on Sunday, tweeting that he was promising a "major announcement" on Monday.
Murphy was joined by NJ Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli and NJ Department of Health Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Edward Lifshitz for the announcement in Trenton.
The state has been under various lockdowns for more than a year and businesses have suffered greatly.