The increase from 35% to 50% for those businesses took effect at 6 a.m. and comes after a steady decline in new cases and hospitalizations since the start of the year, though both have started to rise again in the last week. Nearly 3.3 million vaccine doses have been administered in the state with more than 1.1 million people fully vaccinated.
The switch to a 50% capacity limit matches the change Murphy announced Feb. 22 for churches and other houses of worship.
The limit on private gatherings also increases Friday to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced his plans to loosen restrictions last week during a regular COVID-19 briefing. On Wednesday, the governor warned against “knucklehead behavior” that could set the state back.
“Just because we are able to take these steps to deliberately and responsibly reopen more of our economy and business community does not mean this pandemic is over,” Murphy said. “Not by a long shot.”
He added: “As we have in the past, we will not hesitate to shut down anyone crossing the line and putting the health and safety of their patrons and communities at risk.”
Seating at bars, however, will still be prohibited and is limited to tables, along with other social distancing requirements.
New York City also raised indoor dining capacity on Friday to 50% while the rest of New York state increased to 75%.
Indoor dining capacity was originally reopened at 25% just before Labor Day weekend. Murphy increased that capacity to 35% last month.
The new 50% limit does not include employees against that cap and seating at bars is still prohibited.
New Jersey’s seven-day average for new confirmed coronavirus cases is 3,234 as of Thursday, up 11% from a week ago and 17% from a month ago as officials warn about the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19. That’s the highest seven-day average since Feb. 13.
The statewide rate of transmission also increased Thursday to 1.06, from 1.05 the previous day. Any number over 1 indicates that the outbreak is growing, with each new case leading to at least one other case.
In all, New Jersey has now reported 754,817confirmed coronavirus cases out of more than 11.4 million PCR tests in the year since the state reported its first case on March 4, 2020. There have also been more than 98,532positive antigen tests. Those cases are considered probable, and health officials have warned that positive antigen tests could overlap with the confirmed PCR tests because they are sometimes given in tandem.