New Jersey

NJ Slashes Outdoor Gatherings, Bans Most Indoor Sports – and No Sitting on Santa's Lap

Outdoor gatherings, cut from 500 to 150 two weeks ago, will now be cut again to 25 people

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What to Know

  • Gov. Phil Murphy reduced New Jersey's outdoor gathering limit to 25 people as of Dec. 7
  • The state will also suspend indoor youth and adult sports through December, except for college and pro sports
  • New Jersey's daily case load roughly quadrupled over the month of November, and hospitalizations tripled - but nearly 70% of people called by contact tracers are refusing to comply

New Jersey will once again sharply reduce the number of people allowed to gather outdoors, and will ban indoor youth and school sports through the rest of the year, as the state combats a steadily rising rate of COVID-19 infections.

But the efforts to fight the virus are running into a huge problem -- nearly 70 percent of people reached by contact tracers are refusing to comply. Gov. Phil Murphy implored the public to cooperate, saying there was no "witch hunt" involved.

All indoor youth and adult sports will be paused as of 6 a.m. Dec. 5 through Jan. 2, Murphy said, with the only exceptions for collegiate and professional teams.

The state will also once again lower its outdoor gathering limit. The limit was 500, then reduced two weeks ago to 150, and now it will be cut again to 25 as of Dec. 7.

But Murphy also made clear that any talk of a full lockdown was just a social media rumor, and that while all options are on the table, the situation is different now than it was six months ago. first reported the planned restrictions.

The crackdown comes amid a surge in infections in the state. Whereas New Jersey was reporting about 1,000 new cases a day at the end of October, it's now routinely posting more than 4,000 new cases a day.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID tripled over the same timeframe, and the daily death toll rose back to six-month highs.

Murphy has blamed a variety of factors, including COVID fatigue and excessive gatherings behind closed doors. But he has also hesitated to go back to the full restrictions the state saw in the spring, during the virus's first wave.

Christmas Gathering Guidelines

The state also said Monday it would issue new guidelines around holiday celebrations, designed to minimize gatherings as much as possible.

"It is strongly recommended that people consider alternatives to visiting Santa at indoor locations, such as virtual visits or outdoor social distanced visits and photos with Santa," Edward Lifshitz, medical director of the state Department of Health, said at a news conference.

And while malls can still have Santa Claus appearances with appointments, masks, time limits and social distancing, "children should not be permitted to sit on Santa's lap," he added.

The state will also issue guidelines about caroling, tree and menorah lightings, and the like, designed to minimize the number of people in one place.

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