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NJ Gov. Phil Murphy Increases Outdoor Gathering Capacity To 500, Extends Public Health Emergency Ahead Of July 4th Holiday

TRENTON (CBS) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is raising the limit on crowd size for outdoor gatherings starting Friday. Murphy announced Thursday he will sign an executive order that bumps the capacity at outdoor gatherings from 250 people up to 500.

The order goes into effect Friday, July 3.

Murphy has also extended the public health emergency in New Jersey for an additional 30 days.

"These declarations, unless extended, expire after 30 days," Murphy said. "This means we'll have the authority to remain vigilant and prepared to act should there be a new outbreak of COVID-19."

Health officials announced 539 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 172,356 heading into the 4th of July holiday weekend.

There were also another 27 deaths related to COVID-19. The state's death toll now stands at 13,251.

Casinos, amusement parks, and playgrounds in the state are allowed to reopen as of Thursday.

Officials are stressing the importance of social distancing as many people look to go to popular vacation spots for July 4th.

"As you celebrate our nation's independence this weekend, please remember: use common sense, keep your social distances, wash your hands frequently, and wear a face covering," Murphy said.

Murphy is also warning those visiting outdoor bars and restaurants this weekend not to let their guard down.

"If you go to an outdoor bar or restaurant this weekend, do not let your guard down," Murphy said. "Don't crowd around bars. Keep your face covering on unless you're eating or drinking. If you feel uncomfortable because of over crowding, leave."

Indoor dining in the state remains closed at this time.

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