As COVID-19 cases climb to unsustainable levels in many areas around the country, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has called for a four-week suspension of all indoor sports at the youth, high school and adult recreational levels.
NJ.com reports that Murphy signed a new executive order issuing the edict on Monday. It will begin on Saturday and remain in effect until Jan. 2.
Though the order includes high school athletics, many of those seasons were pre-emptively pushed back to January, and thus will not be impacted. One exception is high school ice hockey, which was set to begin practices this month.
“As folks know, I am a big sports fan and all of my kids play,” Murphy said. “I hope and intend to see the winter sports season in January. I want to see that high school senior get to play his or her last season and I value the importance of sports for the physical and mental wellbeing of our children. But we are seeing outbreaks related to indoor sports and this is a prudent, short-term step to slow the spread.”
According to NJ.com, 28 outbreaks in New Jersey have been tied to indoor sports. Health officials have said those outbreaks have affected 170 people — 100 of them related directly to youth hockey.
Murphy’s order will allow for private sports-related classes to continue — but any such classes must adhere to limitations on gathering size. Indoor gatherings are capped at 10 people for the time being.
Collegiate and professional sports were exempt from the executive order because of their ability to put additional safety measures in place. Teams at those levels can establish a broad testing protocol, limit outdoor activities, and place athletes in specific living environments.
Murphy said that his main concern when deciding to enact the order was the state’s hospital capacity. On Wednesday, the state reported 4,350 new COVID cases, in addition to 3,287 hospitalizations. Among those hospitalized, nearly 600 were in critical care.
“Stability in our health care system starts with carefully chosen steps to hamper the spread of this virus,” Murphy said.