Gov. Phil Murphy is set to announce that a limited number of parents in New Jersey will be allowed to watch their children play indoor high school sports again after months of being banned from the stands because the coronavirus pandemic, NJ Advance Media has learned.
The lifting of the new restriction could take effect within the coming days, according to two sources who are familiar with the governor’s plan but weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the announcement.
Additional details on how many spectators will be allowed and other restrictions were not immediately available, but the announcement could come as soon as Friday, the sources said.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond for comment.
Murphy banned all indoor sports in the state for four weeks late last year. At the time, organized sports were allowed to resume beginning Jan. 2, but teams had to abide by new rules — including prohibiting spectators at games.
The governor, who has four children, had conceded he understood as a parent how it’s difficult not to be able to watch a child’s game, particularly for families of seniors. But he insisted the restriction was put in place to try and blunt the further spread of the virus.
As recently as late last month, Murphy hinted at one of his COVID-19 briefings that he was considering “some amount” of spectators and that he may give priority to parents of high school seniors.
“If the numbers continue to get better, the answer to that, I think, is yes. We just can’t say when,” Murphy said Jan. 25. “Whatever we did, whenever we did it, it would prioritize seniors’ families.”
The news comes less than a week after Murphy increased strict capacity limits for indoor dining, gyms and other businesses from 25% to 35% as the outbreak in the state continues to slow and vaccination efforts increase.
Murphy cited declining hospitalizations, a gradual decrease in new daily case numbers, and the lowered rate of transmission of the virus as reasons why certain businesses can increase indoor capacity.
The governor also said Monday the overall numbers “point in the right direction” and hinted he could lift more of the restrictions put in place to stop the spread. But Murphy didn’t reveal which steps he would take and he also warned that new variants of the virus that more easily spread could reverse the trend.
Currently, all indoor organized sports at the youth, high school, and adult recreational levels are permitted in New Jersey. But teams are only able to exceed the state’s current 10-person limit on indoor gatherings during practices, and games.
The state’s ban on interstate sports and competitions is still in effect.
Murphy is currently quarantining after a member of his family tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19. But the governor has tested negative for the virus. His briefing on Friday is expected to be held virtually.
The state on Thursday reported another 3,012 confirmed coronavirus cases and 79 additional deaths related to the illness. The state’s seven-day average for new confirmed cases is now 3,368, down 1% from last week and 40% from a month ago.
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