NJ loosens restrictions on some sports, entertainment venues

Fans will be allowed to attend sports and entertainment events at the New Jersey's largest facilities in limited numbers starting next week, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

New Jersey venues with an indoor seating capacity of 5,000 or more will be allowed to have 10% of those seats occupied by fans starting on March 1, the Democratic governor announced during a briefing from Trenton.

For outdoor venues over 5,000 seats, the number will be 15% of capacity.

Murphy said he decided to allow the limited in-person attendance after reviewing a vast array of coronavirus-related statistics including hospitalizations, the number of hospital admissions versus discharges, overall positivity rate for COVID-19, and the rate of transmission, and determining that small crowds can be permitted safely.

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He said face coverings and social distancing will be required at these venues.

"If you buy tickets together, you can sit together, but otherwise, we have to spread apart," he said.

The order applies to the state's major arenas, including the Prudential Center in Newark, where the NHL's New Jersey Devils play, and outdoor stadiums including Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, home to the NFL's New York Giants and Jets.

The governor said about 1,700 to 1,800 fans should be allowed to attend Devils hockey games under the new rules.

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"This is a day toward which our entire staff has been planning, working and looking forward to for the past 11 months," said Devils President Jake Reynolds. "Those who enter the building will feel confident that our process and protocols are focused on making their safety the number one priority."

Murphy said he is optimistic that by the time the NFL season begins in September, capacity limits may be further raised, barring any major setbacks in dealing with the pandemic.

"I'll be shocked if we're not at a higher capacity for the Jets, Giants, for Rutgers as we get into the fall," Murphy said. "We need to do it safely and responsibly."

In a related announcement, Murphy also said parents or guardians of collegiate athletes will be able to attend their children's games effective immediately, a step that was recently taken for high school athletics.

With the Associated Press