More than 16,500 families will have empty spaces at their Thanksgiving tables this year due to coronavirus. Governor Phil Murphy is urging people to plan for small gatherings for the holiday.
"We know that there are those who are so yearning for normalcy that they're willing to risk their family's health for a big Thanksgiving," he said. "We urge you to think beyond this holiday."
Earlier, Murphy told "Good Morning America's" George Stephanopoulos, "We do have some realities that are stark."
The cases of coronavirus continue to rise in New Jersey and it's only getting worse Murphy says due to colder weather, more people indoors, pandemic fatigue, and transmission happening behind closed doors.
In order to stop that, he says the state has taken measures like cutting back on indoor dining at 10 p.m. each night, but he's begging residents to only see their immediate family on Thanksgiving and "don't travel."
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Starting on Monday, outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 150 people.
The outdoor restrictions do not apply to outdoor weddings, funerals, religious services and political activities. Attendance at high school, college, and pro sports is capped at 150 people.
The restrictions come a week after indoor gatherings were limited to a maximum of 10 people.
Governor Phil Murphy said some indoor gatherings may continue under the current rules - limited to 25% of a room's capacity, up to 150 people:
Religious services/celebrations and political events
When asked if he would have to close schools in the state due to the rising number of cases, he said that he hoped not.
"We've got 800 different districts and schools that we got to oversee and 500 something are hybrid, 160 something are remote, the rest are either in-person or a combination, and I'm hoping at least, assuming we can do it safely, and keep our case transmission as low as it has been, I hope we can keep schools open," Murphy said.
He added that he thinks the pandemic will get worse before it gets better though.
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"We've got a vortex of a lot of bad facts, we've got cold weather, people letting their hair down with fatigue, and then holiday after holiday," Murphy said.
When it comes to the vaccine, the governor said they are working to get plans in place.
"We think it will be in waves, first for health care workers, essential workers, vulnerable people, and then eventually for the general society," Murphy said. "But two jabs, subzero storage, we're going to need a lot of help on the federal side of that."
The state health department wants to vaccinate front-line workers first, and 70% of the state's population (4.7 million) within six months of the vaccine being ready.
Governor Murphy called on the Trump administration to "open the books" on the vaccine and coronavirus efforts to the Biden transition team.
"We don't know what we don't know. The notion that we could sort of casually hand the ball off in mid-day on January 20th is a complete fallacy," Murphy said. "This is really, really complicated."
Visit covid19.nj.gov for updates.
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