Capacity for restaurants, gyms and a host of recreational and personal care businesses will rise to 50% next Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.
“We feel confident in these steps given the data that we’ve been seeing over the past five weeks since the last time we expanded the indoor reality,” Murphy said. “For example, on February 5th, when our restaurant capacity last changed, our hospitals were treating just under 2,900 patients, that number’s come down by about a thousand and has been consistent since then.”
At the same time, the state is raising limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings will see their capacity rise from 10 to 25, while outdoor gathering limits will double, from 25 to 50.
Religious and political events, along with weddings, funerals, memorials and performances are exempted from those limits.
Bar seating remains banned, and Murphy said the state would continue to incrementally increase limits if its case count continued to decline.
The move was timed to coincide with similar limit increases in New York City.
Republicans have, for close to a year, railed against restrictions on businesses imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19, including limits on restaurants. Their reactions Wednesday were mixed.
“I’m glad to hear Governor Murphy is following the lead of other states in raising indoor gathering limits, but it doesn’t make sense that some will be limited to 25 people while others will be at 50% of capacity,” said State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa). “If larger indoor gatherings are safe for anyone, Governor Murphy should raise the limits to the same levels for everyone across the board.”
But the increase was telegraphed well in advance. Murphy two weeks ago signaled he’d likely raise capacity limits if the state’s case numbers continued to improve.
The Bergen Record first reported the increase to capacity limits.