New Jersey is taking additional steps to control the spread of the coronavirus, which continues to surge across the state.
Beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday, all indoor youth, high school and adult sports will be prohibited until at least January. The new restrictions do not apply to collegiate or professional teams. Outdoor sports will be permitted to continue.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the state has seen COVID-19 outbreaks tied to indoor sports, but he is hopeful that a temporary pause will slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also urged residents to keep gatherings as small as possible during the holiday season.
Indoor youth sports had been allowed to have contact practices and competitions since last month . But teams were prohibited from traveling out of state for indoor competitions.
Among high school sports, ice hockey will be most impacted by the new restrictions. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association had approved ice hockey practices to begin on Dec. 14 , but all other winter sports were not to start workouts until at least January. The NJSIAA already had postponed games and competitions until 2021.
"Our steps in the fight against COVID-19 continue to be dictated by careful analysis of science and data," Murphy said.
Outdoor gatherings limited
The state's cap on outdoor gatherings again will be tightened.
No more than 25 people will be allowed to gather beginning at 6 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7. Religious and political activities, funerals, memorial services, wedding ceremonies and outdoor dining are not impacted by the new limit.
New Jersey began curtailing its gatherings limits last week in response to escalating COVID-19 cases. Outdoor gatherings have been limited to 150 people since Nov. 23, a drop-off from the 500-person limit established in July.
Social distancing guidelines have been strongly encouraged at outdoor events and face masks have been mandated at gatherings where physical distancing is not possible.
The latest coronavirus restrictions imposed by the state come as New Jersey continues to grapple with a spike in COVID-19 cases.
New Jersey reported 3,199 additional coronavirus infections Monday, bringing the statewide total to 337,304. There have been 15,164 lab-confirmed deaths.
"As we come out of the long Thanksgiving weekend and turn our gaze to the December holidays, we must remember that this virus is not done with us," Murphy said. "Let’s redouble our efforts and end the year by crushing the curve a second time, so we can look forward to a better 2021."