With New Jersey now averaging more than 3,000 new COVID cases a day, hospitalizations on the rise and the spot positivity rate shooting through the roof, Gov. Phil Murphy is allowing local officials to impose additional curfew restrictions on non-essential businesses.

His latest executive order allows municipalities and counties to to regulate business hours after 8 p.m.

Murphy said this is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

“Our approach to this second wave is to act surgically within hot-spot areas,” he said. “That means giving local officials the ability to take actions to prevent localized hot-spots from becoming COVID wildfires.”

Murphy referenced a new study in the journal Nature that concludes indoor venues “accounted for roughly 80% of new infections in the early months of the pandemic.”

“We’ve received numerous reports that as the night progresses, people begin to congregate, let their guard down and take fewer precautions," Murphy said Thursday. "We know this is not true everywhere, so we are empowering local officials to address unique situations when they feel that an operating hours restriction in the evening would help their efforts to stop the spread of COVID.”

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The state already has a new restriction that closes bars and restaurants at 10 p.m. every night.

Local governments are not allowed to fully close businesses or change the state's restrictions on capacity.

He said if these types of decisions were allowed it would lead to people traveling to other communities and potentially spreading the virus.

Murphy said the coronavirus challenges the state now faces are different from those in the spring, when drastic action was needed to control state-wide spread.

“Today we have a much stronger testing regime in place and we have a greater ability to effectively mobilize hot-spot teams and other resources,” he said. “By working alongside and through local health and public safety officials we believe we can have a more effective and efficient means of attacking this virus in the second wave.”

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