Updated: 3:40 p.m.
New Jersey restaurants will be allowed to have more customers dining indoors starting next Friday, March 19. Gyms, barbershops, and salons will also have increased capacity.
Additionally, the state is increasing the number of people allowed to gather indoors and outdoors for certain functions.
The new guidelines take effect at 6 a.m. next Friday.
“We feel confident in these steps given the data that we’ve been seeing over the past five weeks since the last time we expanded the indoor reality,” said Gov. Phil Murphy during a Wednesday news conference.
Under the new guidelines, restaurants, gyms, and salons will be able to operate at 50% capacity. The figure was set at 35% on Feb. 5.
Bar seating at restaurants will still be prohibited.
At the end of next week, indoor gatherings will be capped at 25 people. The total was 10 people.
Outdoor gatherings will be capped at 50 people. The limit was 25.
In both cases, the new guidelines do not apply to religious services or ceremonies, political events, funerals or memorials, or performances.
“We’re gonna do this in increments,” said Murphy. “We don’t want to lurch out there and have to come back.”
Wednesday’s announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of the state’s first COVID-related death — 69-year-old John Brennan of Little Ferry in Bergen County.
To date, a total of 21,294 people have died from COVID-19 over the past year, including the 56 new deaths Murphy announced on Wednesday.
That translates to an average of 65 COVID-related deaths per day over the last year.
“The toll of this virus has been staggering,” said Murphy. “It exceeds the numbers of New Jerseyans lost in any war.”
More than 2.6 million residents have been vaccinated so far, including 919,000 residents who are now fully vaccinated. New Jersey is home to nearly 9 million residents.
The Murphy administration has committed to having vaccine available for every New Jersey adult who wants it by Memorial Day on May 31.
This developing story will be updated.
Get daily updates from WHYY News!