While we’ve all been relaxing and enjoying some indoor dining and a return to a bit of normalcy, there has been an increase in cases of COVID-19, and hospitalizations happening over the last month, and an average of over 2,000 new cases a day over the past week. Because of this, Governor Murphy announced new restrictions for restaurants and indoor sports.

Effective on Thursday, November 12th, all restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges must close their indoor dining by 10 pm. Outdoor dining, takeout or delivery services may continue past 10 pm. This regulation also includes casinos, which may remain open for gambling around the clock, but no food or drink will be available to serve after 10 pm and cannot start again until 5 am the next day.

“To be clear, the last thing I want to do, or any of us want to do is to shut our economy back down,” said Murphy. “Thankfully we are not at that point. Looking at the data we are taking surgical steps that we hope will help mitigate the current increasing rate of spread.”

In addition to the earlier closing times, bar side seating will be prohibited at all hours. Noting that many restaurants were using the bar to seat patrons at a social distance, he did acknowledge that restaurants may put tables at less than six feet apart if there is a barrier separating the groups. The NJ Department of Health will be issuing further instructions to restaurants about these barriers.

Individually fully enclosed dining bubbles (which can be heated) are allowed, but they are limited to one group of diners and must be fully cleaned between groups.

Murphy also acknowledged that there has been a rise in cases due to indoor sports, youth hockey in particular. “The risk is even greater when teams from other states come together for tournaments or other youth league functions,” says Murphy. “It simply is not safe for teams to be crossing state lines for competitions where there is a serious risk for spreading the virus.”

With this in mind, all indoor youth sports, up to and including high school, will be prohibited from participating in interstate games and tournaments, effective Thursday, Nov. 12.

“With these actions we need to change our mindsets. We have to shake off the pandemic fatigue that I know we all feel,” reminds Murphy. “I feel it by the way as well. We have to get back into the mindset that saw us crush the curve in the spring. “

As of today, New Jersey has 256,653 total COVID cases, with 2,075 new cases over the weekend. And there are currently 1,537 people hospitalized due to COVID, the highest since June. New Jersey has lost 14,460 people to COVID.

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