All of New Jersey’s most-watched COVID-19 metrics — the spot positivity, the rate of transmission, hospitalizations, the number of patients in the ICU, the number on ventilators — continue to improve or hold steady at low levels. But Gov. Murphy has still not given the green light for limited capacity gyms or indoor restaurant dining to restart.

He also continues to refuse to spell out what specific benchmarks must be met when in order to allow that to happen. Reporters have asked several times at his thrice-weekly novel coronavirus media briefings.

During the update in Trenton on Monday, questions were once again raised about this issue.

“I hope sooner than later we’ll have some news on getting to some of the indoor stuff," Murphy said. "I’m not going to marry myself to a date yet but the data is unquestionably good of late."

He said he hopes to break news soon on "at least some steps, baby steps or otherwise, to get indoors.

"We’re not there yet, but we want to get to yes, but we’ve got to do it right," Murphy said.

When Shirley Tilghman, the co-chair of the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Commission was asked what data she believes we need to see in order to be able to give indoor dining and gyms a chance to reopen, she said “I don’t think there’s a single metric that is going to tell us when it’s going to be safe to begin to reopen more generally.”

She said recent flare-ups in other parts of the world where COVID-19 had been controlled or seemingly eliminated, such as New Zealand, are concerning.

“All of this is just a reminder to us that the virus is still here," she said. "It has not gone away.”

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Tilghman also said that some point, even though it’s been extremely hot this summer, the weather will begin to cool down, outside events will need to be curtailed and more indoor activities will pose “a major risk.”

New Jersey currently allows outdoor dining, with social distancing. But though Murphy had announced earlier this summer he expected to allow indoor dining at limited capacity beginning in early July, he reversed course just days before restaurants expected to open their dining rooms.

When Murphy was again asked Monday to spell out what he was looking for to allow indoor dining or gyms to reopen, he replied “a sustained period of good data including rate of transmission, in a place we feel good I think is the key here right, so this is not just one day or any couple of days.”

On the question of whether New Jersey is working in a coordinated fashion with other neighboring states where indoor dining and gyms have reopened, Murphy insisted this was still happening, “but we’ve said from moment one it is much more in the vein of harmony as opposed to in lock-step.”

He then suggested an announcement of some sort could be coming in the next week or two.

“I think we’ll be able to, I hope soon begin to show progress on further indoor activities,” Murphy said. “Sustained data that’s good is what we’re looking for, and we think we’re getting into that neighborhood right now, I hope that we’ll be able to get to some indoor steps sooner rather than later.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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