New Jersey Further Limits Indoor and Outdoor Gatherings as COVID-19 Cases Rise

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Seyfarth Synopsis:  Governor Murphy continues to tighten restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings through Executive Order 196 as COVID-19 cases rise across the State. 

As we reported here and here, in the past few weeks, New Jersey has reinstituted restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, and has required that employers take certain precautions to protect their workforces, in light of recent upticks in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the State.  Executive Order 196 builds on these recent restrictions and further limits indoor and outdoor gatherings as detailed below.

Indoor Gatherings

  1. Indoor gatherings that are not religious services or celebrations, political activities, wedding ceremonies, funerals, or memorial services must be limited to 10 people.
  2. Indoor gatherings for religious services or celebrations, political activities, wedding ceremonies, funerals, or memorial services must be limited to 25% of the room’s capacity or 150 people, whichever number is lower.
  3. Indoor professional and collegiate athletic competitions are subject to the indoor gathering limit of 10 people. Athletes, coaches, referees, trainers, and other individuals who are necessary for the event do not count toward this limit.  The number of individuals present inside facilities where indoor professional or collegiate athletic competitions are taking place must be limited to 25% of the room’s capacity or 150 people, whichever number is lower.  In addition, facilities hosting indoor professional and college athletic competitions must continue to abide by Paragraph 1 of Administrative Order No. 2020-22, which incorporates prior executive orders’ restrictions on restaurants located within such facilities, health and safety protocols for such facilities and masking requirements for individuals while within the facility.
  4. All other indoor athletic practices and competitions are also subject to the indoor gathering limit of 10 people. However, the Order contains an exception if the number of individuals who are necessary for a no-contact practice, contact practice or competition, such as players, coaches and referees, is greater than 10 people.  In that case, the practice or competition may proceed, as long as no individuals are present who are not necessary for the practice or competition, such as spectators.  Even under this exception, the number of individuals at the indoor gathering still may not exceed 25% of the room capacity or 150 persons, whichever number is lower.

Executive Order 196 further incorporates prior executive orders’ indoor gathering requirements, including those in Paragraphs 5 and 6 of Executive Order 183 and Paragraphs 1(c)-(i) of Executive Order 152.  Those additional requirements are:

  1. All attendees at an indoor gathering must wear face coverings at all times except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, where the individual is under two years of age or when wearing a face covering is impracticable, such as when an individual is eating, drinking, or smoking.
  2. For permitted indoor gatherings of over 10 people, individuals who are organizing or maintaining the gathering must wear face coverings whenever feasible, and must wear face coverings whenever they are within six feet of another individual, except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health.
  3. For permitted indoor gatherings of over 10 people, all attendees must be six feet apart from other attendees at all times, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, as well as excluding a limited number of individuals organizing or maintaining the gathering.
  4. For permitted indoor gatherings of over 10 people, there may be no contact between attendees, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, and excluding a limited number of individuals organizing or maintaining the gathering.
  5. Individuals organizing or maintaining the gathering should, where applicable, demarcate six feet of spacing in the area of the gathering to demonstrate appropriate spacing for social distancing, such as through the placement of cones, flags, or other markings.
  6. Any physical items, including equipment, may not be shared by multiple attendees of the same gathering except for immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, unless such physical items are sanitized before and after use by different individuals.
  7. If the gathering requires pre-payment or seeks donations of any kind, contactless options for pre-payment or donation, such as online or by telephone, must be offered wherever feasible.

The Order also references the existing restrictions on entertainment centers where performances are viewed or given, including movie theaters, performing arts centers and other concert venues, as outlined in Paragraph 2 of Executive Order 183, which remain in effect.

The Executive Order’s indoor gathering limits took effect at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.

Outdoor Gatherings

  1. Outdoor gatherings that are not religious services or celebrations, political activities, wedding ceremonies, funerals, or memorial services must be limited to 150 people. The Order further specifies that while the numerical limits on outdoor gatherings in prior executive orders are rescinded, the other requirements of Paragraph 1 of Executive Order 161 and Paragraph 2 of Executive Order 152 remain in effect, including:
    • For outdoor gatherings of over 25 people, all attendees must be six feet apart from other attendees at all times, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, as well as excluding a limited number of individuals organizing or maintaining the gathering.
    • For outdoor gatherings of over 25 people, there may be no contact between attendees, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, and excluding a limited number of individuals organizing or maintaining the gathering.
    • For outdoor gatherings of over 25 people, individuals organizing or maintaining the gathering should, where applicable, demarcate six feet of spacing in the area of the gathering to demonstrate appropriate spacing for social distancing, such as through the placement of cones, flags, or other markings.
    • For outdoor gatherings of over 25 people, any physical items, including equipment, may not be shared by multiple attendees of the same gathering except for immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners, unless such physical items are sanitized before and after use by different individuals.
    • Open-air rain tarps, tents, and other outdoor structures are allowed solely for the purpose of protecting against foul weather or for shade.
    • All individuals at the gathering should wear face coverings at all times where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, in accordance with CDC recommendations, except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or where the individual is under two years of age, and all attendees must wear such face coverings where required by another executive order.
    • If the gathering requires pre-payment or seeks donations of any kind, contactless options for pre-payment or donation, such as online or by telephone, must be offered wherever feasible.
  2. There is no person limit on outdoor gatherings for religious services or celebrations, political activities, wedding ceremonies, funerals, or memorial services.
  3. Outdoor entertainment centers where performances are viewed or given, including movie theaters, performing arts centers, and other concert venues, must limit the number of patrons in any outdoor area where a performance is viewed or given to a number that ensures that all individuals can remain six feet apart, but the limit cannot be larger than 150 people.
  4. Professional and collegiate athletic competitions that are conducted outdoors are subject to the outdoor gathering limit of 150 people. Athletes, coaches, referees, trainers, and other individuals who are necessary for the event do not count toward this limit.  In addition, similar to indoor competitions, facilities hosting outdoor professional and college athletic competitions must continue to abide by Paragraph 1 of Administrative Order No. 2020-22.
  5. All other outdoor sports practices and competitions are subject to the outdoor gathering limit of 150 persons, inclusive of athletes, coaches, referees, and trainers.

The Order’s outdoor gathering limits will take effect at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, November 23, 2020.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Penalties for violations of the Executive Order may be imposed under, among other statutes, N.J.S.A. App. A:9-49 (violations as disorderly conduct) and -50 (aiding or abetting violation), under which penalties include imprisonment for a term not to exceed 6 months, a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 or both, in the discretion of the court.

Updated Guidance on Indoor and Outdoor Gatherings

New Jersey has also updated its guidance on indoor and outdoor gatherings to reflect the new Executive Order’s requirements.

***

Seyfarth continues to monitor Governor Murphy’s Orders and New Jersey guidance in response to COVID-19 and will provide further updates as they become available.  New Jersey businesses should also closely track these updates.  The rules and requirements continue to become more complicated and we are learning that various localities (such as Hoboken or sections of Essex County) are considering their own additional requirements that include items such as the potential for enhanced tracking of patrons and visitors and curfews.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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