TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There is good news for New Jersey residents hoping to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend and the nicer weather moving forward.

During his daily coronavirus media briefing on Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he is signing an executive order that increases the number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings from 10 to 25, but with strict social distancing guidelines still in place.

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The governor added recreational campgrounds, both public and private, are open effective immediately.

“We are able to confidently make this decision today because of the hard work that we put in through social distancing to relieve the stresses on our healthcare system,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the new directive on outdoor gatherings does not include dining or graduations, adding he hopes to announce more on the latter next week.

He also made it clear the 10-person limit for indoor gatherings remains unchanged.

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The reasons for the new rules for outdoor gatherings have everything to do with the continued decline in key hospitalization data. Murphy said the number of new hospitalizations, patients in the hospital, patients in the Intensive Care Unit, and patients on ventilators have dropped “dramatically.”

Murphy said New Jersey continues to be at or near the top of the list in metrics nationally, including new cases per 100,000 residents (13), patients in the hospital per 100,000 residents (38), and new deaths per 100,000 residents (1.3), but added those numbers are slowly decreasing and that the public needs to continue to behave “responsibly and deliberately.”

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“Each day brings with it more signs that we are moving closer to being able to enter Phase 2 of our restart,” Murphy said.

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The governor then addressed what he termed “the fiscal crisis that looms right around the corner from our public health crisis,” saying, “Since March, I’ve also made clear that to bridge this fiscal gap we desperately need more federal financial assistance. We have not yet received that. We’ve had some but not nearly what we’re going to need. I had similarly asked the Legislature to authorize state borrowing to ensure that we can fund crucial government operations.”

Murphy said he and his team are proposing a $10 million investment in the Department of Health, specifically to better equip it to assist long-term care facilities, which have been impacted greatly by COVID-19.

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The governor said the current health emergency is projected to leave a $10 billion hole in the budget through June of 2021.

“Much of what we’re going to depend upon to lift us up off the mat, simply won’t be there for us,” Murphy said. “We won’t be able to support our small businesses we won’t be able to help families get back to par. And all the work that we have done to put our fiscal house back in order with back-to-back record surpluses, the savings we’ve gleaned in healthcare, the deposits into our rainy day fund, all of that will be small.”


Murphy again called on the federal government to provide direct fiscal assistance to states.

“Every day, It seems this becomes a more and more bipartisan endeavor. And that’s because more and more people in both parties, by the way, are seeing what the support means. But there are also just as many minds that remain closed and intractable, and one of those closed minds controls the Senate agenda,” Murphy said.

While he said he is not asking Washington for a bailout, Murphy made it clear money is needed to pay police, firefighters and other emergency workers, as well as health care workers, educators, sanitation workers, and to assist the over-burdened Department of Labor.

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“I remain ever hopeful that this package will get to the president’s desk and be signed and I will continue to push this case with the president and his team,” Murphy said.