By Stephanie Stahl

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Some coronavirus restrictions are being eased in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that starting Friday morning, indoor gatherings can increase to 35%. This covers restaurants, casinos, and gyms.

The relaxed restrictions in New Jersey come just in time for Super Bowl weekend, but Murphy says precautions of masks and social distancing are still critically important.

“We are able to take this step today because the data says we can and the data says we can because of the hard work millions of you have put in,” the governor said.

Murphy is easing restrictions imposed in November, with cases of COVID-19 now declining in New Jersey. Hospitalizations are down 20% over the last three weeks.

Starting Friday, limits on indoor dining capacity will be expanded from 25% to 35%.

“But when you’re inside and when you’re taking your mask off to eat and drink, just remember, that you are taking on more risk,” Murphy said. “We think it’s responsible risk. It’s risk that can be safely taken.”

New Jersey will also lift the 1o p.m. service limit on restaurants, but people will still not be able to sit at bars.

“It creates a danger of close and prolonged proximity between and among patrons, bartenders and servers,” Murphy said. “However, municipalities or counties may continue to regulate the hours of operation of in-person restaurant service after 8 p.m. This approach gives local officials the ability to respond to unique situations where they are noticing noncompliance.”

Limits on indoor entertainment will also be increased to 35%. The maximum number of people allowed inside will be capped at 150.

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This covers gyms, casinos, hair salons, amusement and recreational venues and religious ceremonies.

“We believe that we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress in our health care system,” Murphy said.

Murphy noted the growing number of vaccinations as another reason for easing restrictions. New Jersey has provided more than 837,000 doses.

The governor also recognized that vaccine appointments are hard to come by, but he expects that to improve as soon as the vaccine supply begins to increase.


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Stephanie Stahl