New Jersey is rolling back COVID-19 restrictions, including several that directly impact Atlantic City casinos.
Some of the changes go into effect this weekend, while others start in two weeks, NJ Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.
Beginning May 19, the 50% capacity limits for many indoor businesses will be lifted, including casinos, restaurants, bars, retail stores, pools, and spas. On the same day, capacity caps for indoor entertainment venues with more than 1,000 fixed seats can increase to 30%.
Starting Friday, people can once again sit at a bar or eat at a buffet.
In a big win for Atlantic City casinos, large conferences, business expos, and trade shows can finally resume. For now, they will be limited to 250 people.
Masks will still be mandatory indoors and six-foot social distancing guidelines will still apply, Murphy said Monday.
“Should the CDC revise its 6-foot distancing guidance, we will revise our requirements accordingly,” he said. “My guess is that that 6-foot number will come down.”
Vaccines are the ace in NJ’s hand for reopening
The NJ governor signed an executive order Monday to loosen COVID-related restrictions as part of a joint effort with New York and Connecticut, who also announced similar easements.
“The steps announced today are the most aggressive steps we have taken to reopen to date,” said Murphy. “We feel confident we can do this safely because our numbers have trended decisively in the right direction over the last three weeks.”
More than 3.2 million people in New Jersey have received a coronavirus vaccine. New Jersey wants 70% of the eligible population — about 4.7 million people — vaccinated by the summer.
The number of COVID cases are dropping in NJ. Monday was the first day since October with total reported positive cases under 1,000. According to NJ.com, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients, the rate of infection, and the seven-day average of positive cases are all trending down.
With Memorial Day, summer nearing, Atlantic City casinos get lucky
Monday’s actions are, indeed, the most business-friendly since gathering restrictions went into effect last year as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread.
Atlantic City casinos were closed on March 16, 2020, and reopened on July 2 under strict conditions. The shutdown and ensuing business restrictions caused profits at Atlantic City casinos to dip more than 80% in 2020 compared to the prior year.
Just last week, local leaders in South Jersey asked Murphy to loosen restrictions on meetings, trade shows, and conventions. Atlantic City casinos say those activities are critical to midweek and offseason business.
The Casino Association of New Jersey did not respond to a request for comment Monday.