New Jersey is formally ending its COVID-19 health emergency; indoor gathering limits lifted

Rallygoers carry signs that say

Rallygoers carry signs that say "Unmask our kids" and chanting "kill the bill," opposing a bill that would end the public health emergency stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak, Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Trenton, N.J. New Jersey's Legislature passed a bill to end the public health emergency brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, ending most of the more than 100 executive orders that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy enacted to address the pandemic. (AP Photo/Mike Catalini)

New Jersey is formally ending its COVID-19 public health emergency while lifting several remaining indoor-gathering limits and other pandemic-era restrictions.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday morning drawing down over 100 executive orders he’d enacted since March 2020 that aimed to curb spread of the coronavirus. Those orders gave Murphy sweeping powers to mandate mask use and require social distancing.

“Today’s lifting of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is a clear and decisive step on the path toward normalcy,” Murphy said. “The past 15 months have been a challenge, and I thank every New Jerseyan who stayed home, masked up, took precautions to keep this virus in check, and got vaccinated for allowing us to get to this point.”

The orders will officially expire in 30 days.

The legislation does leave in place about 14 other orders, most related to economic protections established during the pandemic, such as a moratorium on evictions or utility shut-offs and a ban on garnishment of stimulus checks. Several other state Department of Health orders governing vaccinations and testing were also extended, until Jan. 11, 2022.

And while the state Legislature had earlier passed the bill, the Republican minority decried the measure for not going far enough — leaving in place a mask mandate in schools and allowing for tighter requirements once again if hospitalizations increased.

“The bill is completely useless,” GOP Assemblymember Brian Bergen said.

Separately, New Jersey officials announced that, starting Friday, all remaining indoor capacity limits are lifted, including a 30% limit on large indoor venues.

Businesses can also begin recalling remote workers, and employees will now be allowed to work maskless — if they’re vaccinated.

With some 4.3 million people already vaccinated, the state is shy of its goal of inoculating 70% of the adult population.

New Jersey recorded 281 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, down from a high last summer of nearly 8,000 a day.

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