New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday that his office was suspending all indoor high school and youth sports in the state amid a rise in new coronavirus cases.
The ban goes into effect on Saturday, December 5 at 6AM and will last until at least January 2, Murphy said at a news briefing.
Murphy pointed to a number of outbreaks among youth sports as the reason for this ban. According to the medical director of the New Jersey department of health Dr. Edward Lifshitz, there have been at least 20 outbreaks and more than 100 cases of coronavirus infection tied to youth hockey.
“I’m a huge sports fan, and all of our kids play sports,” Murphy said. “I hope and intend to see the winter sports season in January. I want to see especially that high school senior get to play her or his last season. And I value the importance of sports for the physical and mental well-being of our children.”
Indoor collegiate and professional sports will not be impacted by the decision.
The new rules also limit outdoor gatherings from 150 people to 25 people, with exceptions for religious events, political activities, funerals, memorial services, wedding ceremonies, and outdoor dining.
Murphy Tweeted out several charts of the rising hospitalizations, including a dramatic increase of individuals in critical or intensive care, in the state.
As of last night:
☑️2,961 patients in our hospitals
☑️263 patients discharged yesterday
☑️378 new hospital admittances yesterday
☑️575 patients in our ICUs
☑️332 ventilators in use
26 patients died in our hospitals yesterday. pic.twitter.com/XcXuLLvjH5
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) November 30, 2020
Murphy followed-up saying that while all options, including a total shutdown as was implemented early in the pandemic, are on the table, he does not anticipate having to enact such restrictions.
“We now have the ability to be more focused & surgical,” Murphy Tweeted. “We have much better data & science to draw from now than 8 months ago, and can focus restrictions on activities that have proven to have the greatest risk of transmission.”
Watch the COVID briefing here:
According to data collected by the New York Times, the state is averaging 4,018 new cases per day over the last week, which is a 14% increase from two weeks earlier. Those numbers are also higher than the early-April peak of the first wave of new infections, which saw New Jersey, especially the area around New York City, as an early hotspot of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations and deaths are both rising, but are still well-below the early-pandemic rates.
The move comes as USA Swimming begins its open-site Winter Junior Championships on Tuesday. New Jersey teams could, in theory, put together meets early in this week and still participate in those championships, but the new restrictions will interrupt all competition and training beginning Saturday.
A non-scientific survey conducted earlier this month by the New Jersey Swim Safety Alliance, a group formed to try and keep pools open in the state through the pandemic, had no self-reported spread at the state’s indoor poosl.