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Murphy bumps up restaurant limit to 35% starting Friday

February 3, 2021 GMT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said he will relax COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and bars, bumping up indoor capacity to 35% from 25%, beginning Friday.

Murphy, a Democrat, also said he was lifting a prohibition on indoor restaurant and bar service that started at 10 p.m. That order had gone into effect in November.

The changes will take effect at 8 a.m. on Friday, he said.

Murphy said the changes are possible because hospitalizations due to the virus has gone down by about 20% over the last three weeks.

The capacity limits have hobbled restaurants and led to calls from some Republicans to let businesses reopen. Murphy credited his administration for not raising and lowering capacity limits multiple times.

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“We go up responsibly,” he said.

Shortly after Murphy’s announcement, the mayors of Hoboken and Jersey City, whose bars and restaurants attract customers from both sides of the Hudson River, announced they would let those businesses operate without a curfew as long as they adhere to capacity restrictions.

“Our public safety officers and city staff will be aggressively monitoring all bars and restaurants during overnight hours to ensure COVID-19 safety precautions are being taken at all times,” Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop wrote. “If not followed, any bar or restaurant will be subject to immediate penalties, including but not limited to closure.”

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Jersey fell from 5,850 on Jan. 19 to 4,538 new cases a day Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University

Murphy reported 52 deaths overnight, putting the death toll at 19,506. There have been 837,000 vaccinations so far, the vast majority are people getting the first of two shots.