NJ indoor gatherings now capped at 25 people, ‘period’
Citing statistics that suggests the spread of novel coronations is picking up in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he's further limiting the size of indoor gatherings — now to just 25 people.
Until Monday, New Jersey allowed indoor gatherings of up to 25 percent of the size of a room, or 100 people, whichever was smaller — part of an ongoing series of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But Monday's announcement caps the hard limit, amid reports of huge house parties and a climbing rate of transmission.
For months, New Jersey's coronavirus hospitalizations and daily death rate have been edging down, and are now just a fraction of heights seen early in the ongoing pandemic. But its rate of transmission — an estimate of how many people each person with the virus infects — is now up to 1.48.
In recent weeks, that number hovered around the 1.0 mark. Murphy has said before that in the simplest terms, below 1.0 is good, and above it is a problem. In June, it reached as low as .7, but has previously been over 5.0.
The restriction comes as giant house parties keep making headlines — including a Jackson party with more than 700 people in late July. Murphy has often called people who violate his coronavirus-related executive orders "knuckleheads," saying they're complicating a public health crisis for everyone else.
Murphy said Monday he was putting the new restriction in place "not with joy, but out of necessity."
He said the new restrictions mean indoor house parties are limited to "25 people, period."
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a serious of increasingly strict limits eventually barred gatherings of any kind. Murphy has gradually loosened those restrictions in recent months before tightening them again Monday.
"Unfortunately, the actions of a few knuckleheads leave us no other choice," he said.
The tighter restriction won't apply to weddings, funerals, memorial services, religious or political activities, which will all continue under the current 100-person rule. Outdoor gatherings remain capped at 500.
Murphy had been criticized by some lawmakers and others for attending rallies in the wake of the Minneapolis death of unarmed black man George Floyd under the knee of a police officer — even has his own executive orders prohibited large gatherings. He's also hit back against debunked rumors his 20-year-old daughter was planning a large, indoor, secret wedding. State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan, who has appeared beside Murphy during his news briefings, revealed in April that his own daughter had to postpone her wedding that had been planned for this summer.
Murphy also clarified Monday that restaurants opening their front windows aren't exempt from a current prohibition on indoor dining. New Jersey allows outdoor dining under its coronavirus restrictions, which consider an outdoor area with two "wall" areas entirely open to be outdoors.