New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy joined Moose & Maggie on WFAN on Monday to make a major announcement: starting 6 A.M. on March 1, any New Jersey sports or entertainment venue with a capacity of 5,000 or more will be able to open for 10 to 15 percent of capacity.
Per the Governor, indoor venues can open for 10 percent capacity, while outdoor venues can open for 15 percent capacity. Also, effective immediately, the ability for parents or guardians to see their kids play sports (indoors or outdoors) has been extended to collegiate athletes, as long as the total amount of fans doesn’t exceed a certain capacity.
“For both of those, everybody has to do the stuff we’re all used to these days: face coverings, social distancing, etc.,” the Governor said. “If you buy tickets together you can sit together, but otherwise, you have to social distance, and God willing, this is the first step of what I hope is many more to come.”
Gov. Murphy mentioned specifically the Prudential Center as likely the first venue to see the benefit – the Devils host the Islanders on March 2, and will be able to allow around 1,700 to 1,800 fans. There is no requirement yet, however, for anyone attending games to have to have proof of a negative COVID test, as there is in New York.
“We’re not there yet with tests. That’s why social distancing, one way avenues, how concessions are handled…all that will matter,” Gov. Murphy said.
The Governor is hopeful that come football season, the state will be able to open capacity even further as the Jets, Giants, and Rutgers get set to kick off their 2021 campaigns – and revealed that had the Giants been able to host a playoff game, the state would have worked to allow fans in some capacity.
“Our teams speak to them all the time, and the last conversation I had was with John Mara the afternoon before the Eagles rolled over in the last game,” Gov. Murphy smiled, “but I told John that if the Eagles lost, we’d work with them to find some way to get fans into MetLife. If things go the way I suggested, I’ll be shocked if we’re not at a higher level of capacity for football as we get into the fall. God knows we need it, all of us.”
According to Murphy, a number of criteria were used and a cross-section of data was crunched to come up with this decision.
“This was based on the numbers we look at most frequently: hospitalizations, number of cases, positivity rates, rate of transmissions, and the number of people going into versus coming out of the hospitals,” Gov. Murphy said. “Sadly we’ve lost over 20,000 brothers and sisters, and we mourn them all, but fatalities are a lagging indicator. You get clobbered with it after hospitalizations go way up, so it’s a combo of data points.”
The Governor also noted the state, which is close to 1.7 million vaccinations administered so far, is keeping a close eye on COVID-19 variants, but the ‘basic stuff’ like social distancing and facial coverings seems to be working effectively so far, and he hopes that will continue until vaccines become readily available for all.
“We decided to roll out as massive a per capita vaccination setup as anyone so that when we do get the supply, we won’t be stuck trying to build out distribution,” he said. “It’s the most complex undertaking in the history of our country, so the fact we’re at 1.7 million vaccinated is an accomplishment. We’ll get there, just not as soon as we like.”
That ‘as soon as we would like’ is hopefully by the start of summer.
“When we started in early December, our objective was 70 percent of adults in six months, which is about 4.7 million New Jerseyans,” the Gov. said. “I’m not sure we’ll be there by Memorial Day, but a couple months from now, this will be a whole diff ballgame in terms of vaccine access. By then we should be at the point that if you want a vaccine, you’ll be able to get it, assuming federal supply.”
And, he says, hopefully he can continue to ease restrictions in New Jersey as time goes on, but is doing so slowly because of the unknown quantity that is the new variants of the virus.
“We held out on indoor dining as late as almost any other state, and never lurched backwards like many other states,” he said. “We finally took the step last week to up indoor capacity to 35 percent, and I hope we’ll be able to continue to slowly but surely do that. Because of these variants, we don’t want to move up and then have to come back.”
You can listen to Gov. Murphy’s entire appearance on Moose & Maggie below.