N.J.’s movie theaters also get go-ahead to open at limited capacity Friday

    Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday allowing movie theaters and other indoor performance venues to reopen this Friday.

    That followed his announcement that restaurants would be allowed to host indoor dining under strict guidelines, including capacity limits, as New Jersey continues its economic restart from the COVID-19 shutdown.

    “In the final analysis, we are able to take all these steps today because of the hard work millions of you have done to keep pushing down our positivity rate and our rate of transmission,” Murphy said. “Let’s enjoy eating indoors again, or going to a movie, or celebrating with our friends — safely and responsibly.”

    Much like the indoor dining regulations, there will be a list of requirements theaters will have to meet to reopen. They will be capped at either 25% capacity or 150 movie-goers. Groups that purchase tickets together may sit together, but must remain at least 6 feet apart from all other movie-goers. Masks are required at all times while in the theater.

    Murphy also announced an increased capacity limit for indoor gatherings such as religious services and celebrations, weddings, funerals, memorial services and political activities.  They also will be capped at either 25% capacity or 150 individuals.

    Other notes from Monday’s COVID-19 briefing:

    Health metrics

    With an additional reported 352 positive COVID-19 results, the cumulative total for cases in the state since March 4 is now at 191,960.

    Another eight deaths have now been confirmed to be from COVID-19-related complications. One of these deaths is from Aug. 26, while the remaining seven came between Jul. 24 and Aug. 15.

    The statewide death total is now at 14,165 confirmed deaths, with an additional 1,780 probable deaths awaiting confirmation. There were 15 reported deaths in hospitals yesterday, but they are not yet lab-confirmed.

    Other hospital numbers:

    • In hospitals: 484 (253 confirmed cases, 231 under investigation);
    • In ICU: 103;
    • On ventilators: 36;
    • Rate of transmission: 90;
    • Positivity rate: 41% (from Aug. 27).

    2020 Census

    Murphy also reminded residents that Tuesday begins the last month of counting for the 2020 census. He emphasized the importance of making sure New Jersey is not undercounted, as it was in 2010.

    “We’re less than 1% away from exceeding our statewide response rate from 2010,” Murphy explained. “We were undercounted in the last census. Because of that, we’ve lost out on literally billions of dollars of federal aid and assistance over the past decade.”

    The governor went on to note that New Jersey is currently on track to beat the response rate from 2010: 66.9% of citizens in the state have already responded, with nine different counties already beating their 2010 response rate — Bergen, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex and Warren.

    New Jersey residents can visit 2020Census.gov to respond to the 2020 Census.

    Bill would tax high-frequency trading

    New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) recently backed a bill that proposed new taxes on high-frequency trading. In his briefing, Murphy expressed interest in the bill.

    “We take this notion of taxing, or some sort of toll, on high frequency very seriously,” Murphy said. “It’s something we’re looking at with a great deal of interest.”

    First proposed earlier in the summer by Assemblyman Joh McKeon (D-Madison), the bill could potentially generate massive amounts of revenue during a key time in New Jersey’s budget negotiations.

    Until now, the bill had not received any official backing in the Senate. Murphy also emphasized that this bill, while intriguing, most likely will not be a factor in the budget.

    “It is almost certainly subject to an immediate matter of litigation and challenge,” Murphy said. “While we like the idea, we can’t score something like that in a budget.”

    Final words

    Murphy on reopening businesses in New Jersey:

    Our job now is to ensure that this reopening only leads to future announcements expanding the indoor capacity limits, and that we do not have to take a step backward. We will be watching very closely, and we will not tolerate any owners or managers — or diners, for that matter — who try to work around the rules.”

    Murphy on the upcoming school year:

    Anybody who is expecting a normal school year is not paying attention. This is just going to be not normal. We all have to accept that and keep in mind safety, high quality education, equity and a dose of flexibility wrapped around all that.”