No, Murphy says, you can’t ring in New Year inside NJ restaurants
You're probably eager to ring in 2021 and put 2020 behind you. But you won't be doing inside a New Jersey restaurant or bar – at least not legally.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he's unlikely to lift the state's current restrictions on indoor dining – which require bars and restaurants to close indoor facilities at 10 p.m. Midnight remains off the table. The state also continues to restrict indoor dining capacity to 25 percent of normal use.
"I do not see it," Murphy said Monday when asked about the prospect of relaxing the restriction. And he acknowledged: "I don't think that's going to make a lot of people happy."
The pronouncement, though expected, comes as the governor is also sounding mixed notes of optimism and caution, with New Jersey expecting to roll begin its rollout of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine from a select few hospitals on Tuesday – first prioritizing healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, and then moving on to broader populations.
The state has received 76,000 Pfizer doses so far (the vaccine is a two-dose regimen), and expects hundreds of thousands more in the coming weeks. Murphy and state officials say they're also optimistic a vaccine by Moderna will be approved for emergency use by the FDA in just days. The Moderna vaccine, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, doesn't require storage at extremely cold temperatures, making it easier for the state to arrange distribution from more locations.
But if the vaccine means light at the end of the tunnel, Murphy said, "we have to travel more before we are through this darkness."
That's with hospitalizations continuing to climb. Rising death tolls typically lag behind hospitalizations, though mortality still remains just a fraction of what the state saw as it as hit hard in the spring.
New Jersey is aiming for 70 percent of eligible adults to get vaccinated – but in polling, about half of respondents say they're wary about getting the shots. Many cite the quick turnaround on development, saying they're worried the vaccines may not be safe.
The governor, for his part, also said the state won't require healthcare workers to be vaccinated – but he's hopefully they'll do so voluntarily.
Murphy said he's optimistic that in about six weeks, the state will begin to move past what he and other New Jersey officials have described as a potentially troubling winter, with rising cases and deaths. He also said he's hopeful to "use a scalpel" on any further restrictions. He said seemingly increasing reports about violations of his coronavirus executive orders by New Jersey business can be chalked up to more enforcement, not more non-compliance.
And the governor repeated calls he made leading up to Thanksgiving, before instituting a 10-person limit on most indoor gatherings – to keep Christmas and other holiday celebrations small.
"We get through the next six weeks, we're gonna, I believe, have the worst behind us," Murphy said.