New Jersey and California are starting to reopen indoor dining and movie theaters after months of closure

  • Starting on Friday, movie theaters, restaurants, and other indoor venues in New Jersey will be allowed to open business to patrons at 25% capacity, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday.
  • California is also cautiously letting counties with low virus transmission reopen indoor dining and other activities, with restrictions.
  • The two states, along with New York, had some of the worst outbreaks in the US, but they've gotten them largely under control.
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After being closed for nearly half a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that movie theaters, restaurants, and bars can start reopening their indoor spaces — cautiously.

Starting on Friday, theaters will be required to follow stringent guidelines and are limited to operating at 25% capacity with only up to 150 people, CNBC reported.

"Masks are required to be worn at all times in the theater unless you're pulling it down to put away a handful of popcorn," Murphy said at a news conference.

For indoor dining, people will be capped to groups of eight and diners are required to wear masks when they're not seated. Restaurants and bars will also be limited to operating at 25% capacity.

New Jersey is starting to reopen indoor spaces because it's largely gotten its outbreak under control.

Newly reported cases in New Jersey are around 330 per day as of Saturday, down from the peak of nearly 4,000 in April, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Newly reported cases in the Garden State began leveling off in early-July.

Across the US, more than 6 million people have contracted COVID-19 and nearly 184,000 people have died from the disease.

Murphy's announcement gives theater owners only four days to prepare for reopening ahead of Labor Day weekend, when the Christopher Nolan movie "Tenet" is set to debut in the US.

But some theaters will stay closed. Cinemark won't reopen its four theaters in the state on Friday, CNBC reported.

New Jersey's decision to reopen theaters comes just two weeks after a judge upheld Murphy's decision to keep theaters closed. The court ruling denied a motion for an injunction by the National Associate of Theatre Owners and cinema chains that would permit theaters to reopen, Deadline reported.

In response to the decision on Monday, a spokesman for the owners' organization told NJ.com that they have been willing to meet state guidelines in order to reopen safely.

California is taking things county-by-county

On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his guidelines to reopen movie theaters and other indoor venues.

The state will also begin to immediately allow indoor dining in 19 of its counties, Reuters reported.

The plan for reopening includes a color-coded framework that categorizes counties into tiers based on the number of new cases per 100,000 and percent positive testing rate.

Counties with fewer than one case per 100,000 and less than 2% positive testing rate are "Minimal, Tier 4," for example, and can allow restaurants to operate indoors with up to 50% capacity. Progressively more stringent measures are imposed the higher the case and positive test rates.

Statewide, nearly 4,000 daily cases were reported on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins data — an overall decline from recent weeks.

Indoor dining bans remain in many of California's populous counties, but hair salons were allowed to reopen throughout the state on Monday.

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