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Murphy requires face coverings outside, allows more restaurants to open for outdoor dining

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State officials continued to monitor the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) throughout New Jersey this week as they looked to further reopen the state. As of today, New Jersey has had 174,628 cases statewide with 13,532 deaths, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said the rate COVID-19 spreads from one individual to another has exceeded 1.03 cases per infected individual for the first time in 10 weeks.

"For the last two days, our rate of transmission, or RT, has been at 1.03. This means that for every new case of (COVID-19) we are seeing, that case is leading to at least one other new case," he said. "This means an increasing state of spread statewide. This is an early warning sign that, quite frankly, we need to do more."

Additionally, Murphy said several new outbreaks across New Jersey have been directly linked to travel to other COVID-19 hotspots in the country. He said that of 13 cases in Hoboken, 12 were directly related to traveling in highly infected areas.

"We need to be smarter and we need to work harder," Murphy said. "Our 14-day self-quarantine advisory for those who have come from a known coronavirus hotspot is there for a reason: to prevent flare ups like the ones we are now seeing."

Murphy issued a new executive order on Wednesday stating that face coverings must be worn in outdoor public spaces when practicing social distancing is not possible. He said this is an essential step for times when individuals find themselves in a crowded space and cannot physically remain 6 feet apart from others.

He said individuals who cannot wear a face covering due to medical conditions, those dining at an outdoor restaurant and children under the age of two years old are the only exceptions to this requirement.

"Today's order reiterates our existing policy by requiring masks in indoor spaces accessible by the public, again with exceptions for those with medical conditions and kids under two years old," Murphy said. "Requiring masks outdoors is a step, frankly, I had hoped we would never have to take."

The requirements for outdoor dining services were also changed on Wednesday. Murphy said areas of restaurants with at least two open sides and a fixed roof will be considered outdoor and are allowed to open for in-person service.

This step comes after Murphy paused the opening of indoor dining on June 29, according to The Daily Targum. He said this was done to increase the number of restaurants that are eligible to offer outdoor dining services.

Murphy also announced that the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has reopened for in-person service and will be open on Mondays throughout July.

As of today, he said licenses, registrations, inspection stickers and temporary tags that expired between March 13 and May 31 have automatically been extended to Sept. 30. Items that have expired between June 1 and Aug. 31 have automatically been extended to Dec. 31.

When it comes to education and the upcoming school year, Murphy said their current goal and expectation is to allow school districts to open for in-person instruction. He said if they notice any concerning, negative trends as they approach September, new decisions could be made to protect the health of all students and staff.

"I hope at the end of the day that educators, administrators, parents (and) kids will look at the district plans as they are being developed and say, 'You know what, I feel confident that I can safely and responsibly be in that environment,'" he said.

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