Rising cases of COVID-19 across the state and country have pushed Governor Phil Murphy to announce new restrictions in New Jersey. In his press conference today, Gov. Murphy announced that starting Friday morning, indoor youth and high school sports will be banned until January 2, 2021. Murphy confirmed that this approximately month-long ban includes practices and competitions. Collegiate level and professional sports will be able to continue, under the current restrictions and no spectators. 

“We do not take this step lightly,” said Murphy. “As folks probably know, I am a huge sports fan and all of our kids play sports. I hope and intend to see the winter sports season in January. I want to see especially that high school senior get to play her or his last season. I value the important sports for the physical and mental well-being of our children. We are seeing outbreaks related to indoor sports and this is a prudent, short term step to slow the spread.”

This restriction applies to all indoor sports, including basketball, ice hockey, swimming and more as well as all indoor practices and competitions. 

In addition, Murphy announced a new outdoor gathering limit of 25 people maximum. Outdoor sports, like football and soccer, can continue and players and coaches do not count towards the limit. Spectators will be capped at 25 people. Religious or political activities, which enjoy constitutional protection, along with funerals, memorials and wedding ceremonies are excluded, but any other gatherings are forbidden. Murphy did add that this does not apply to outdoor dining, as small separate groups at outdoor dining do not constitute a single gathering, and outdoor dining can proceed under the current guidance from the Department of Health. 

Some may wonder why sporting events seem to be targeted and Murphy explained that they are using data to focus closures and restrictions in different ways than they did last spring. “We have much better data and science to draw from than we did eight months ago and we can focus restrictions on the activities that have proven to have the greatest risk of transmission,” said Murphy. “Our overarching aim is to ensure the stability of our healthcare system and the ability of our state’s 71 hospitals to ensure proper treatment for all who need care.”

New Jersey has a total of 337,304 positive cases of COVID, with 3,199 confirmed new added today, and a sad total of 15,164 lives lost due to COVID in New Jersey, with 15 added just today.

Murphy also encouraged anyone who had Thanksgiving with family members or friends outside of their bubble to get tested as soon as possible to help slow the spread. And announced that long-term care facilities across the state would be receiving BinaxNow rapid tests to amp up the frequency of testing for staffers, visitors and residents who leave the building.