New Jersey will not reopen indoor dining this week as planned in the first major reversal of the state’s Phase 2 coronavirus reopening plan, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.
Indoor dining was scheduled to resume Thursday along with several other big reopening steps including Atlantic City casinos, amusement parks, boardwalk rides and arcades ahead of the busy July 4th weekend. The canceled reopening also includes wedding venues and banquet halls. But the reopening of casinos remains scheduled for Thursday.
Murphy cited recent scenes from expanded outdoor bar and restaurants showing packed crowds not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing as a reason from pausing indoor dining indefinitely.
Murphy had provided the detailed restrictions for indoor dining at restaurants on Saturday, but changed his mind just two days later. The restrictions had included 25% capacity limits, tables spaced 6 feet apart, face coverings for staff and other rules.
“Given the current situation in numerous other states we do not believe it is prudent at this time to push forward with what is, in effect, a sedentary indoor activity – especially when we know that this virus moves differently indoors than out, making it even more deadly,” Murphy said Monday at his regular COVID-19 briefing.
“We have seen spikes in other states driven, in part, by the return of patrons to indoor dining establishments, where they are seated, and without face coverings, for significant periods of time,” he said. “We are also moved to take this step because of what we have seen in some establishments across the state of late.”
Murphy added: “Overcrowding. A complete disregard for social distancing. Very few, if any, face coverings.”