TRENTON, N.J. (CBS/AP) — New Jersey is moving forward to resume professional sports in the state and socially-distanced outdoor graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020. Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that high school and college seniors in New Jersey will be able to have socially-distanced outdoor graduation ceremonies, beginning July 6.

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“Certainly, these will be graduations unlike any others. The steps we are taking are necessary to ensure the health and safety of everyone in attendance but we are equally as confident that no one will ever forget the way we celebrate the class of 2020,” Murphy said.

During Tuesday’s briefing, Murphy said schools may need to hold multiple ceremonies depending on how big the graduating classes are. The health data at the time will dictate how many people will be allowed to attend the outdoor ceremonies.

“Our goal is to ensure that our students are given the sendoffs they richly deserve,” Murphy said.

“It makes us really happy. It gives us a lot of hope,” Washington Township High School senior Maggie Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald is among the many New Jersey students elated to hear Gov. Murphy give the green light for in-person graduation ceremonies this summer, restoring a sense of excitement and normalcy to a school year thrown off-kilter by COVID-19.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to have an in-person graduation, to see my friends and celebrate with my family so it is really good news,” Fitzgerlad said.

Schools are closed through June because of the outbreak, but this is the latest easing of restrictions, which have included opening parks and golf courses along with the state’s beaches.

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Murphy also said that professional sports teams in the state may return to training and competition, if their leagues move in that direction. That means the Philadelphia 76ers will be allowed to practice in Camden, while the Flyers can resume practice in Voorhees.

“We have been in constant discussions with teams about necessary protocols to protect the health and safety of players, coaches and personnel,” Murphy said.

There were 703 new cases announced on Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 155,764. Fifty-four additional deaths were also reported, raising the death toll to 11,191.


“The trends continue very meaningfully in the right direction,” Murphy said.

He says the state is on the cusp of phase two of the reopening, which will include some indoor activities.

Testifying before a group of New Jersey senators, Frank Rizzieri, whose family has owned salons and a cosmetology school in the state for almost a century, says a coalition of salon and barbershop owners have been working for weeks to develop COVID-19 safety protocols.

They include taking clients’ temperatures and stylists wearing face masks, as well as face shields.

“We respectfully ask you with us as responsible business owners providing the highest level of safety for our clients, employees and students, to allow our industry to reopen in the state of New Jersey. Any further delay will force many of us out of business,” Rizzieri said.

As many small businesses await the governor’s permission to open their doors, some are worried how the extra $600 a week from federal unemployment insurance will affect their ability to bring back low-wage workers.

CBS3’s Cleve Bryan contributed to this report.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)