On Friday, September 4, NJ State Executive Order Number 163 will permit restaurants and food establishments to reopen indoor dining service. The order contains a number of critical restrictions that must be taken seriously and adhered to by patrons if the order has any chance of success. Too many states across the country such as Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, Texas and many others learned some hard lessons and were forced to rescind those dine-in orders all due to spikes in COVID-19 cases.
“It’s certainly a letdown for counties and states that couldn’t sustain the positive trends in COVID-19 cases but in most instances it came down to many restaurant owners/managers not enforcing restrictions and patrons not cooperating by following the social distancing mandates,” says Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “Ocean County owners and diners have been looking forward to reopening for some time now but we all have to work together to make this work. No one wants to have to take that step backwards after coming this far.”
“We are very pleased diners and owners will have the opportunity to enjoy a meal indoors at their favorite restaurant,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “So many residents have done their part by social distancing, wearing masks and now with transmission rates consistently less than 1% and positivity rates holding steady, the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) has the confidence to move forward with these reopening plans.”
But the Ocean County Health Department wants people to know it’s too easy to take a quick step in the wrong direction. The numbers will be monitored very closely in the coming weeks by the NJDOH and Public Health community so it’s paramount for people not to fall into a sense of complacency and think the pandemic is over and its business as usual.
Meanwhile, movie theaters will also reopen their doors on Friday just in time for many of the big Labor Day weekend showings. Key restrictions include operating at a 25% capacity or a limit of 150 people per screen or showing. Masks are required to be worn at all times other than to eat a snack or to drink.
Gyms and health clubs reopened on Tuesday and are also permitted to operate at 25% of maximum capacity. Religious services, political activities, receptions, funerals and other social gatherings will have the same maximum capacity to 25% and a 150 person limit – up from 100.
“This is good news across the board for all these venues, but keep in mind that in just the last 2 months more than a dozen states have had to roll back indoor dining and other entertainment due to a significant spike in cases and increase in positivity rates,” added Regenye. “If this new order is to succeed we have to do this safely and responsibly. We need everyone’s cooperation when they are attending these social gatherings by social distancing, wearing masks and understanding that these measures do work. Ocean County residents know how to pull together in tough times – we all witnessed that during Superstorm Sandy.”
COVID-19 guidance and restrictions for food establishments and patrons can be found at https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/reopening-guidance-and-restrictions/what-are-the-reopening-rules-for-bars-and-restaurants-what-precautions-or-policies-must-they-take. Additional information can be found at www.ochd.org.
The OCHD is also providing a general COVID-19 Information Call Hot Line for residents and clinicians to answer questions regarding the coronavirus. The number is 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.
The NJDOH (NJPIES) hotline is available for questions around the clock at 1-800-222-1222 or by dialing 2-1-1. Other related sources; for medical COVID-19 questions call 1-800-962-1253 or Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive alerts.