As Gov. Phil Murphy imposed tighter restrictions on bars and restaurants to slow the surge in coronavirus cases, state health officials revealed Monday that a recent outbreak tied to a popular Jersey Shore bar prompted a health alert last month to patrons who may have been exposed.
At least nine bartenders and servers at Leggett’s on 1st Avenue in Manasquan contracted the virus, prompting a public health alert for patrons, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at the coronavirus press conference in Trenton.
The notification, read aloud at the press conference, notified New Jersey residents that anyone who visited the bar from Oct. 17 and Oct. 22 might have been exposed to COVID-19. The state visited the establishment on Oct. 23 and the restaurant management cooperated with health officials, Persichilli noted.
“This is just one example,” she said. “We really don’t put (alerts) out every day because they have to be investigated, but it is happening.”
Leggett’s announced it was closing for indoor dining on Oct. 22, but continued offering takeout and packaged goods, according to the bar’s website. Indoor dining resumed on Thursday. The bar manager was unavailable to speak to Monday afternoon when contacted by NJ Advance Media.
Persichilli read the notification after the administration was peppered with questions by reporters on why it chose to implement new restrictions that will force bars and restaurants to close indoor dining at 10 p.m. and also ban seating at indoor bars. Takeout and outdoor dining can continue after 10 p.m.
Bars and restaurants, however, will be able to seat groups of people at tables closer than six feet as long as they are separated by plexiglass barriers and they can set up outdoor igloos for individual groups as colder weather approaches.
At the briefing, Murphy noted that his decision to tighten restrictions was not the product of a single incident like Leggett’s. He declined to release specific data on what led to the decision.
Monday marked the sixth straight day with more than 2,000 new daily cases. On Saturday, officials reported 3,207 more cases, which was the highest number since April 27 when the state was still in the midst of the initial outbreak. The last time New Jersey had more than 3,000 cases, the state was in the middle of an unprecedented lockdown with schools and non-essential businesses shuttered to slow the outbreak.
The seven-day average for new daily positive tests is now 2,276, up 40% from a week earlier.
Murphy said it is possible additional restrictions could be forthcoming as the state — and the nation — race towards a vaccine that could return some semblance of normalcy by the spring.
“We have to shake off the pandemic fatigue,” he said. “A vaccine is on the horizon. Let’s focus, folks, on this upcoming six months.”
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