New Jersey coronavirus update: Bar seating back in as COVID restrictions loosen

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- Coronavirus restrictions loosened a bit more in New Jersey Friday with the return of indoor bar seating, as new statistics show a sharp decline in COVID cases.

Governor Phil Murphy said the state is opening up because the numbers are going down, though restaurants are still handicapped by CDC recommended social distancing of six feet.

"If that number came down to three feet to restaurants, that's a game changer," Murphy said. "We are also allowing bar seating as of today, which is another big step for restaurants."

Murphy announced Friday that New Jersey's statewide positivity is 3.29%, the lowest in months. Still, 29 additional deaths brought the state total to 23,129, with an additional 2,640 presumed COVID deaths.

He visited a vaccine drive-thru clinic operated by the Hunterdon County Health Department in Flemington and also announced that starting May 11, walk-in vaccinations will be available at the FEMA Community Vaccination Center in Newark every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for all New Jerseyans age 16 and up.

Murphy also said he would consider paying residents to get vaccinated, to provide additional incentive as the state tries to get the shot to more residents.

"We might," he said. "I think all things are on the table."

He said he will be visiting one of the breweries offering the "Shot and a Beer" program, which provides a free glass of beer at participating locations to anyone over 21 who gets their first vaccination dose this month.

RELATED | Shot and a beer: State offers free brews to those who get vaccinated this month

The plan is part of Murphy's multipronged approach to increasing the state's vaccination numbers and reach its goal of 4.7 million residents vaccinated by the end of June.

"I'm going to go by one of those breweries today and thank them for their participation," he said. "I may have a beer myself."

State officials were working on guidance regarding partitions and ways to avoid having congregating at bars.

Buffet service also resumed Friday.

And as prom season approaches, indoor catered events can now hold 50% capacity with a cap at 250 people.

Full Details of Tri-State Reopening Announcement:

Effective May 19, most business capacities -- which are currently based upon percentage of maximum occupancy -- will be removed in New York and New Jersey. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet. This new distance-based maximum capacity will apply across commercial settings, including retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services, among other settings. It will also apply in houses of worship.

Increase in Social and Residential Gathering Limits

In New York beginning May 10, the outdoor social gathering limit will increase from 200 to 500 people. Beginning May 19, the indoor social gathering limit will increase from 100 to 250 people. Also, the outdoor residential gathering limit of 25 people will be removed, reverting to the social gathering limit of 500 people with space for appropriate social distancing, and the indoor residential gathering limit will increase from 10 to 50 people. In New York, any event gatherings in excess of the social gathering limits may only occur if all individuals present proof of full vaccination status or recent negative COVID-19 test result.

Event Venues

Congregate commercial and social events in New York-such as those at venues that host sports competitions, performing arts and live entertainment, and catered receptions-can exceed the social gathering limits of 500 people outdoors or 250 people indoors if all attendees over the age of four present either proof of full vaccination status or recent negative COVID-19 test result and the required social distancing can be accommodated.

Starting May 19, large-scale indoor event venues will operate at 30 percent capacity, which is an increase from the current 10 percent capacity limit. Large-scale outdoor event venues will operate at 33 percent. Social distancing, masks, and other applicable health protocols will still apply, including the requirement of attendee proof of full vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test result.

Industry Reopening Requirements

While most industry capacity restrictions will be lifted, industry-specific requirements will remain in effect for a longer period of time, including state or local health authority event notification, health screening, contact information for tracing, enhanced air handling and building system standards, hand hygiene, and environmental cleaning and disinfection protocols. The state will continue to provide additional guidance on these provisions as they apply to each industry.

RELATED | Vaccination rates in these New Jersey communities are lagging, state says

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