NJ 'hits pause' on plan to restart indoor dining this week

TRENTON, N.J. (1010 WINS) -- Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday halted New Jersey's plan to restart indoor dining this week, citing COVID-19 spikes in other states, as well as a "complete disregard for social distancing" by some of the state's own residents.

New Jersey had planned to allow limited indoor dining starting Thursday, July 2, but on Monday, Murphy said the state would postpone the start date "indefinitely."

"Given the current situation in numerous other states... we do not believe it is prudent, at this time, to push forward with what is in effect a sedentary indoor activity, especially when we know that this virus moves differently indoors than out, making it even more deadly," he said during his daily briefing, adding that the decision "brings me no joy." 

"We've also moved to pause indoor dining 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," he said. "The carelessness of one establishment can completely undo the good work of many others." 

New Jersey "will not tolerate outlier bars and restaurants — and frankly, patrons — who think the rules don't apply to them," he added.

When the state starts allowing outdoor-only graduation ceremonies on July 6, attendees must adhere to social distancing measures and use face coverings, he said. 

"We still have nearly 1,000 people with COVID-19 in our hospitals," he explained. "Do not think for one moment that this is behind us." 

Murphy on Monday reported 156 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state's case total to 171,272, but said a "technical issue" could have kept some new cases from being counted. 

He also reported 18 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state's death toll to 13,138. A total of 978 people in the state were hospitalized with the virus as of Sunday, including 225 people who were in either critical or intensive care, he said. 

"We are losing ground that we had made up in terms of our ranking among states in the number of new cases," he said. "Our standing with regards to the number of patients in our hospitals and deaths in comparison to other states is unchanged." 

The governor urged residents to keep practicing social distancing, to keep washing their hands frequently and to keep wearing face coverings. 

"Keeping up the fight is even more important now to prevent us from backsliding," he said. "If we can prevent just one more family from having to live through the grief of losing someone to COVID-19, then it will be worth it."