As more New Jersey residents are vaccinated and hospitalizations due to COVID drop, the state is beginning to open up more and more. Effective Friday, March 19, restaurants, gyms and salons will be allowed to operate at 50 percent of their indoor capacity. This is a jump from 35 percent, where they have been since February 5. 

This news applies to all restaurants, recreational and amusement spots, gyms and fitness centers, barbershops, salons and other personal care businesses. But while these are reopening in larger capacities, Governor Murphy still recommends that you outdoor dine when possible. “I’m encouraging everyone in the strongest possible terms to engage in social activities outside whenever possible,” said Murphy during his daily press conference. “We know this virus is many times more transmissible and lethal indoors than outdoors. I applaud every restaurant, and there are literally tens of thousands of them, that have taken creative efforts to facilitate outdoor dining. I look forward to seeing outdoor dining reemerge in full force this spring.”

Also on March 19, indoor gatherings will be capped at 25 individuals, up from 10, and outdoor gatherings will be capped at 50 individuals, up from 25. These new regulations don’t apply to religious services, ceremonies, political events, weddings, funerals, memorial services or performances, which have their own new regulations.

“We believe that when all factors are weighed we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress on our healthcare system,” said Murphy. “Unlike some states which are flat out practicing politics over public health, Texas and Mississippi come to mind, our mask mandate remains in effect and will continue to be enforced. We will continue to move deliberately, responsibly and incrementally, guided by public health data and the other data points that we look at.”

This includes vaccinating the state’s residents with one of the three available COVID vaccines, Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson. To date, NJ has given out 2,671,480 doses of vaccinations. That means that 919,000 people are fully vaccinated, either by receiving both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer shots or the single dose of the J&J shot. And over 1.75 million initial doses have been given out, with more NJ residents eligible this month.