No indoor dining July 2 — Murphy says it’s too dangerous
Indoor dining is no longer set to resume in New Jersey on July 2, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
The announcement comes as many states are slowing their own reopenings or instituting new restrictions in the face of growing novel coronavirus cases — though New Jersey has been seeing its positivity rate, hospitalizations and deaths declining for weeks.
"We had planned to loosen restrictions this week. However, after #COVID19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely," Murphy said on Twitter, in an announcement coinciding with his daily COVID-19 press conferences.
He said the decision was also prompted "because of what we’ve seen in some establishments across the state. Overcrowding. A complete disregard for social distancing. Very few, IF ANY, face coverings."
"The scenes we see in our newspapers and on social media CANNOT CONTINUE," Murphy wrote.
He said many establishments, and many patrons, are acting responsibly, but "the carelessness of one establishment can completely undo the good work of many others. We will not tolerate outlier bars and restaurants – and, frankly, patrons – who think the rules don’t apply to them. They are the ones who ruin it for everyone else."
NJ.com this weekend reported Donovan’s Reef Beach Bar in Sea Bright was packed with patrons, with few wearing masks and many shoulder-to-shoulder.
"For the young crowd out at Donovan’s tonight, there’s no such thing as social distancing or coronavirus. It’s just a Saturday night party," reporter Josh Axelrod wrote on Twitter. He called the environment "pandemonium."
Murphy said at his daily press conference he wouldn't "name and shame" irresponsible establishments for now. State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan, in his daily compliance report, didn't mention any violations by restaurants or bars Monday.
“It’s not a political issue for me; I don’t want us to get shut down again. I’m concerned this behavior is going to come back and bite our industry,” Russell Lewis, owner of the Watermark in Asbury Park, said to New Jersey 101.5 News, when asked about his own reaction to the video shared by NJ.com.
Lewis continued “We all need to be running at the same time and the same pace to sustain this.”
Murphy himself ate outdoors at Martell's Waters Edge Saturday, the governor said in social media posts over the weekend. Though pictures circulated by others appeared to show him indoors, the manager of the restaurant said those photos are from within a large tiki bar area with open sides and a roof.
Murphy issued an executive order allowing outdoor dining for the first time since March earlier this month, but indoor dining has remained prohibited under orders he issued in March in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Take-out and delivery service have been allowed throughout the pandemic.
"Compliance isn’t a polite suggestion. It is required," Murphy said on Twitter Monday. "Selflessness, not selfishness."
In a series of other tweets, he warned the coronavirus risk isn't over, even as New Jersey has seen encouraging statistics.
The state is still on track to allow outdoor graduations after the July 4 weekend. Under current restrictions, outdoor gatherings, including graduations, are capped at 250 people. Murphy has said he expects to raise that limit to 500 people on July 3. Murphy said Monday he doesn't currently foresee changing that plan
Shopping centers reopened Monday. Amusement parks remain scheduled to open up on July 2, as do casinos, at reduced capacity.
Murphy said Monday indoor dining is distinct from some other indoor activities in that it involves sedentary activity without a mask.
He didn't commit to a date for reopening indoor dining, but said it's more likely to be weeks away than days away.