June 4, 2021 8:24 am
Starting Friday, the state is rolling back one of its final rounds of COVID-19 restrictions, as the spread of the virus plummets and more than 4.1 million people in the state are fully vaccinated.
Under these latest reopenings, effective June 4, general indoor gathering limits, previously capped at 50 people, are being lifted. Meanwhile, the 250-person cap is being scrapped on political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and commercial events.
The roll-back of restrictions coincides with Gov. Phil Murphy’s pledge to sign a bill that would formally end the state’s public health emergency – now in its 15th month – and cede power granted under the dozens of COVID-related executive orders he has issued in that time. The bill will keep in place 14 executive orders through early next year that would allow the governor to manage vaccinations and testing, ramp up restrictions in the event of future outbreaks, and keep in place moratoriums on evictions and utility shut-offs.
A poll by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce from early May found that at least two-thirds of executives said they were ready to return to in-person commercial events such as conferences, conventions, expos and trade shows.
The 30% capacity limit for large indoor venues and stadiums – those with at least 1,000 seats – is being lifted, as well.
“If the [New Jersey] Devils had a game on June 4, could they sell out and the answer is yes,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. The Devils are based out of the 18,000-seat Prudential Center, an indoor concert and sports stadium in Newark.
Unvaccinated patrons will be required to wear face coverings, but short of customers showing their vaccination records, businesses will instead need to rely on their good word.
Masking will still be required for places with children, such as summer camps, pre-schools, and elementary and middle schools. They’ll be required at public transit centers including airports and train stations, state offices such as the Motor Vehicle Commission, homeless shelters and hospitals, and other health care settings.
Face covering requirements in youth settings has drawn the extreme ire of conservative activists, Republican lawmakers and the two main candidates for the Republican gubernatorial primary: Hirsh Singh and former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli.
Under a separate order going into effect Friday, employers no longer have to enforce mask usage and social distancing at their offices among fully vaccinated workers. And they will no longer be required to keep as much of their workforce as possible working remotely. Staff will have to verify that they’ve been vaccinated.
“While we are rescinding some requirements, that doesn’t mean we don’t expect you to be flexible and to work with employees — particularly those who are juggling family obligations such as child care,” the governor said. “We’re doing this to allow employers greater flexibility to bring employees back into in-person working environments.”
One poll in May found that at least two-thirds of businesses plan to have some form of remote work in place after the COVID-19 pandemic. And many employers plan to spend thousands of dollars on new technology that would allow for that kind of telecommuting arrangement.