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Increased capacity limits for indoor, outdoor events will not impact virtual commencement, Rutgers says

Starting May 10, capacity for indoor events and large venues will increase to 50 percent, and the outdoor gathering limit will increase to 500 individuals, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced today. – Photo by Flickr.com

New Jersey will relax capacity restrictions further for indoor events and outdoor gatherings starting May 10 among other restrictions, said Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) today at a press conference. University spokesperson Dory Devlin said the new capacity limits will not change the decision to hold Rutgers' spring commencement ceremonies virtually this year.

"While the governor’s new limits have increased the allowable crowd at outdoor facilities, they still wouldn’t allow for a full graduation at the stadium," she said.

Indoor capacity will increase to 50 percent with a maximum of 250 individuals for private catered events such as weddings and school proms, political gatherings, funerals, memorial services and performances, Murphy said. The previous indoor capacity limit for these events was 35 percent with a maximum of 150 individuals.

New Jersey will increase the outdoor limit for gatherings from 200 to 500 individuals with the hope of boosting this capacity further before Memorial Day, Murphy said.

In addition, outdoor capacity will increase for large venues from 30 to 50 percent, provided they can maintain a distance of 6 feet between seats, he said. The state has adjusted its definition of a large venue so that venues with at least 1,000 seats qualify, as opposed to 2,500.

The Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education released guidance today for graduation ceremonies, proms and other end-of-year school events.

“Graduations will quickly follow those proms, and we are hopeful that schools and colleges and universities will be able to lean on either the outdoor gathering limit or the large venue capacities,” Murphy said.

Devlin said Rutgers will take the state's relaxed restrictions into account for the Fall 2021 semester.

Murphy said the state is increasing capacity limits to enable businesses and schools to make proper preparations, expecting the recent downward trend in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and transmission to continue. Hospitalizations in New Jersey have dropped for the fifth day in a row and have remained fewer than 2,000 since Thursday.

“As we have said from day one, we have been eager to relax our restrictions as soon as the numbers gave us confidence that we could do so safely and responsibly, and that time has come,” Murphy said.

Dance floors at private catered events will be able to open, provided masking and social distancing regulations are followed, though they will remain closed at places such as bars and nightclubs, he said.

Outdoor carnivals and fairs will also get to operate at 50 percent capacity. Murphy said the state will relax the 6 feet distancing requirement if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention make such a recommendation after concluding a review of their outdoor guidelines.

“The only reason we’re able to announce all of these steps today is (due to) the tremendous work that millions of you are doing to help us crush the curves and end this pandemic,” he said. “Keep getting vaccinated. That’s an incredibly important step we need to pursue. And if you know someone who may be nervous, reach out to them and help them understand that our vaccines are safe and effective.”

Murphy said the recent resumption of Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution following a temporary pause has increased the state’s confidence in reaching its goal of fully vaccinating 4.7 million New Jersey residents by the end of June. As of this morning, the state has reached approximately 60 percent of its goal, with 2,819,226 New Jersey residents fully vaccinated.

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