Indoor sports in New Jersey can resume Saturday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.
The prohibition was implemented Dec. 5, at a time when coronavirus cases across the state and country were at their highest levels.
Murphy said the state’s numbers are now stable and its safety protocols are strong enough that officials believe they could contain any potential outbreaks caused by the sports.
On Wednesday, New Jersey reported 4,664 new coronavirus cases and 99 new deaths. Across the state, 3,727 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 701 people in intensive care units and 467 people on ventilators.
Interstate youth sports competitions are still prohibited, Murphy said.
There is also still a limit of 10 people allowed to be inside a space at one time. If a sport needs more than 10 people to play the game, then the limit can be exceeded. Otherwise the total indoors, including spectators, referees, and team members, must not exceed 10.
Murphy said any continuance of the ban would have caused seasons to be canceled entirely, which officials did not want to see happen.
“We know that sports are important for the mental and physical health of children and residents,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state’s total death toll from the virus is now 16,931, and two of the deaths reported Wednesday were residents of Vineland Veterans Memorial Home, said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. In total, seven residents of the Vineland center have died from COVID-19.
Murphy and Persichilli shared frustrations with how the coronavirus continues to infect residents of long-term care facilities despite safety precautions and mass testing.
Persichilli said 2.7 million tests have been performed on long-term care residents and staff.
“They’re doing all the right things and the disease is still coming in,” she said. “This virus is relentless and it preys on vulnerable, elderly individuals.”