New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he's postponing the restarting of indoor dining because of a lack of compliance over the use of face masks and social distancing.
“Compliance is not a polite suggestion. It is a requirement,” he said during a news conference.
Murphy cited the spike in other states as well as reports in New Jersey of people not correctly wearing or failing to wear face masks as well as maintain distance.
“Unfortunately, the national scene compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home are requiring us to hit pause on the restart of indoor dining for the foreseeable future," he said.
New Jersey has been slowly reopening, and on Monday indoor shopping malls were cleared to start business again.
Despite the delay with indoor dining, Murphy said casinos are still going to open with limited capacity.
"Casinos will open," Murphy said. "I feel comfortable in the distinction. Sitting, sedentary, close proximity, ventilation and not being able to wear one of these over your face (mask)."
Indoor dining was to begin again on Thursday at 25% capacity. Casinos are set to reopen Thursday, also at 25% capacity.
New Jersey has been among the hardest hit states, which Murphy hinted at when rescinding the restaurant reopening.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, said he does not think casinos will reopen if they can’t have indoor dining.
“That was a huge, huge piece of opening the casinos,” Sweeney said. “Who wants to go to a casino if you can’t get dinner or a drink?”
New Jersey reported 156 new cases overnight for a total of 171,000, Murphy said. There were 18 new confirmed deaths since Sunday, for a total of 13,138 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths. There are 1,854 suspected coronavirus-linked deaths.
The delay in reopening comes as the state progresses through Stage 2, of three, of restarting. So far, indoor retail has reopened, along with salons, barber shops and massage parlors.
Also set to reopen Thursday are amusement and water parks, playgrounds, museums, aquariums and libraries.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.