Normalcy returning to New Jersey.

After more than a year of pandemic restrictions, COVID-weary New Jerseyans flocked to the shore this weekend, and it looked like any typical summer weekend. The beaches were packed, the Parkway was jammed and bars and restaurants were filled. There was laughter. There was music. There were few wearing a mask.

New Jersey takes another step toward a return to normalcy this week. After lifting most gathering and capacity restrictions last week, Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to announce you no longer need to wear a mask indoors, if you are fully vaccinated. That would bring New Jersey in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and leave Hawaii as the only state in the nation with strict mask rules.

However, the issue of proving who is and who is not vaccinated remains. That issue was what led to Murphy's hesitancy in easing mask rules.

There is no uniform method of proving vaccination status in New Jersey. New York state has an app based verification system, but few private business owners have been using it since NY lifted it's mask mandate last week. In New Jersey, its also likely to be on the honor system.

Over the weekend, New Jersey passed 4 million people who are fully vaccinated. More than 8 million total doses of vaccine have been injected since last December. All the metrics continue trending in the right direction. Hospitalizations have dropped to about 700 statewide. The rate of transmission remains well below 1.0. Spot positivity rates have stayed below 3%.

Murphy has said he will allow his public health emergency declaration to expire next month, provided the Legislature extends some of his executive orders.

The Assembly was scheduled to vote on such a bill last week but lawmakers bowed to public pressure and delayed a vote. The current legislation was vague as to what would trigger Murphy's ability to extend, or even expand, restrictions should there be an uptick in COVID-19 metrics. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said they would revise the legislation, and try again for a vote.

More NJ Top News for May 24:

Deadly South Jersey house party shooting

A man and woman were killed in a mass shooting at a house party in Cumberland County that left a dozen others hurt, one critically, State Police said. Just before midnight on Saturday, May 22, troopers responded to reports of multiple shots fire at a home in Fairfield Township.


NJ's most and least COVID vaccinated towns, by county

New Jersey reported just short of 4 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 statewide, heading into the last week of May. So how does that break down across all 21 counties?

And, how can some communities show a vaccination rate of more than 100%, according to state data? Reasons include people who have moved, those who are traveling and not residing at home where the census counted them, students who may select their school residence for vaccination data and people in long-term care (or other facility-based housing) among other reasons, as explained in a footnote on the state COVID dashboard.

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