Starting Wednesday, May 19, New Jersey will lift capacity limits for retail stores, gyms, barber shops and nail salons, restaurants, museums, movie theatres, churches, synagogues and mosques.

But for many of these establishments, the change will actually be meaningless.

While the capacity limits themselves are being abolished, all indoor businesses will still be required to follow social distance rules and keep people 6 feet apart.

Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said “we welcome the news that we continue to reopen the state, however with the continued restrictions on social distancing for many, it does not provide much more capacity indoors.”

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She said after the CDC announced guidance that vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask or social distance inside, New Jersey officials should re-think the distancing requirement.

“With social distancing you continue to have capacity restrictions,” she said, “now we need to be following CDC guidance like everyone else is and lift those restrictions.”

Dana Lancellotti, the president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the changes taking effect on Wednesday do not really help most restaurants.

“Unfortunately, 100% capacity is not achievable while there still needs to be 6 foot distancing,” she said.

“They can’t accommodate as many people as they actually have capacity for because they need to keep the 6 foot distancing, so that is a major problem," she said.

Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly said when the CDC specifically recommends cutting the 6 foot distance rule to 3 feet he will consider a change, but not before then.

Siekerka said New Jersey is now becoming an outlier because we are “one of the only states that isn’t following CDC guidance on lifting mask restrictions and social distancing, so without that we don’t really have a full reopening.”

She added the governor’s decision making process is murky and questionable.

“All along we’ve been saying we need to follow the science and the guidance of those who determine the science,” she said. “So if we follow the CDC with regard to putting on masks we need to follow the CDC with regard to taking off masks.”

These NJ towns have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases

Looking at data compiled by the Department of Health in 2019, the most recent year for which reports are available, we determined the rate of STDs for 1,000 people in every municipality. The data combines reports of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. For a different look, you can check out this article for a list of New Jersey towns that saw the highest increase in STD/STI cases in recent years. 

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