(AP) New Jersey high schools were allowed to begin winter sports seasons this past weekend.
Gov. Phil Murphy said last Wednesday that teams could begin playing on Jan. 2, with restrictions.
Winter sports seasons were put on hold at the end of November as coronavirus cases in New Jersey surged.
Teams will be exempt from the state’s current 10-person limit on indoor gatherings, but spectators won’t be allowed to attend if the number of players, coaches and officials meets or exceeds the limit. That amounts to a de facto ban on spectators.
“We recognize that any continuance of the pause would likely mean that many sports seasons would have to be scrapped entirely,’’ Murphy said last week. “We do not wish to see that happen. As long as folks play it straight, they play it right and they do the right thing, we’re open for business again.”
The weekly average of new daily cases was rising and had topped 4,000 on the day Murphy suspended winter sports. Last week the number was slightly below 4,000. In the last two weeks the rate of transmission has dropped to 0.95, the lowest it has been since September.
A ban on interstate hockey competitions has been extended a month, to Jan. 31, Murphy announced along with the governors of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Murphy and health officials on Dec. 30 reported 99 new deaths from COVID-19, giving the state nearly 17,000 confirmed deaths with roughly 2,000 more deemed probable.