New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced the temporary statewide suspension of indoor high school and youth sports along with a new limit on outdoor gatherings under updated rules to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The sports ban will go into effect Saturday at 6 a.m. and last until at least Jan. 2, Murphy said at a coronavirus news briefing, noting that officials are seeing outbreaks among youth sports.
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“I’m a huge sports fan, and all of our kids play sports,” Murphy said. “I hope and intend to see the winter sports season in January. I want to see especially that high school senior get to play her or his last season. And I value the importance of sports for the physical and mental well-being of our children.”
Dr. Edward Lifshitz, medical director at the state’s department of health, said there have been 20 outbreaks and more than 100 cases of coronavirus tied to youth hockey.
Youth and high school basketball, ice hockey, and swimming are among the sports that will be affected. Murphy said the new rule will not affect indoor collegiate and professional sports.
The new rules will also limit outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 25 people, down from the 150-person limit put into effect earlier this month ahead of Thanksgiving.
The new limit will go into effect on Dec. 7, with the exception of religious and political activities, funeral and memorial services, and wedding ceremonies, Murphy said, adding that outdoor dining will also remain unaffected by the new announcement.
The virus has surged in New Jersey over recent weeks, with Murphy saying there were 3,199 new coronavirus cases on Monday. A seven-day average of 4,018 cases per day over the past week was an increase of 14% from two weeks earlier, according to The New York Times.
Murphy, a Democrat, told Fox News on Sunday that while he doesn’t anticipate shutting down again, another statewide shutdown was still “on the table.”
On Monday, Murphy again squashed any rumors of an impending statewide shutdown.
“Just because we say that all options are on the table – and by the way, you would want us to say that given that we’re dealing with a pandemic and enormous loss of life – that does not mean we are about to exercise any of those options,” Murphy said.
He said the state is not in the same place as it was in the spring when “drastic action had to be taken.”
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“We now have the ability to be more focused and surgical than we did eight months ago, and we can focus on activities that have been proven to have the greatest risk of transmissions,” Murphy said.