N.J. grocery stores now allowed to stock buffets, salad bars

Will Kreznick

New Jersey grocery stores and some other retail businesses that were forced to shut down self-service food stations like buffets and salad bars because of the coronavirus can now open them up again, Gov. Phil Murphy’s office announced Wednesday. The order takes effect immediately and also applies to retail shops […]

New Jersey grocery stores and some other retail businesses that were forced to shut down self-service food stations like buffets and salad bars because of the coronavirus can now open them up again, Gov. Phil Murphy’s office announced Wednesday.

The order takes effect immediately and also applies to retail shops like convenience stores and bodegas.

But buffets are still barred at places like restaurants and casinos.

“As our vaccination effort expands rapidly across the state and our entire adult population becomes eligible, it is now possible to take further incremental steps towards a return to normalcy,” Murphy said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Self-service food stations have been shut down since early restrictions. They were put in place to try and stop the spread of the first wave of the pandemic a year ago.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Live map tracker | Newsletter | Homepage

The news came the same day health officials announced another 3,578 cases of the virus and an additional 45 deaths as hospitalizations rose to the highest number of patients since mid-February.

New Jersey’s seven-day average for confirmed cases is 3,559, down 11% from a week ago, but up 26% from a month ago. Officials have warned that a surge in cases from variants that are more easily transmissible is likely driving the recent infections. Increases in hospitalizations typically follow a week to 10 days later.

Murphy said outbreak models show a peak in cases and hospitalizations by April 18 in both the best case and moderate case scenarios. In a high scenario, the peak would come in mid-to-late May.

In all, New Jersey has now reported 824,179 coronavirus cases out of more than 12.3 million PCR tests since the state reported its first case on March 4, 2020. There have also been 113,800 positive antigen tests. Those cases are considered probable, and health officials have warned that positive antigen tests could overlap with the confirmed PCR tests because they are sometimes given in tandem.

The state of 9.2 million people has reported 24,749 residents have died from complications related to COVID-19 — 22,176 confirmed deaths and 2,573 fatalities considered probable. The probable deaths, which are revised weekly, increased by five on Wednesday.

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Matt Arco may be reached at [email protected].

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