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How can people safely get together? What are the limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings?

Last Updated: 05/07/2021

Attending a gathering, ceremony, or celebration is permitted, but different limits apply depending on the type of gathering and where it is happening:

Indoor Gatherings

Face coverings are required in indoor public spaces and in outdoor public spaces when social distancing is difficult to maintain. COVID-19 remains a threat, particularly at indoor gatherings with unvaccinated individuals. Follow the safety tips described in this article to protect yourself and your community.

  • General indoor gatherings must be limited to 25 people. All attendees at indoor gatherings must wear face coverings and stay six feet apart. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the general indoor gathering limit will increase to 50 people and will apply to general social gatherings, such as birthday parties and events in people's homes.
  • If there is no unexpected uptick in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, indoor business gatherings and organized gatherings (e.g. conferences, expositions, meetings of fraternal organizations, job trainings, events hosted by senior centers) will be limited to 250 people, so long as social distancing can be maintained.
  • Indoor gatherings for wedding receptions, wedding ceremonies, funerals, memorial services, political events, and private catered events including proms, must be limited to 50 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 250 people so long as social distancing can be maintained. Dance floors at private catered events may reopen, with masking and social distancing requirements in place. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, indoor religious services and celebrations may be held at 100 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 250 individuals, so long as social distancing can be maintained.
  • Indoor sports practices and competitions may exceed the general indoor gathering limit under specific exceptions, described in this article.
  • Indoor performances at entertainment centers, including movie theaters, performing arts centers, and other concert venues, must be limited to 50 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 250 people, not including staff. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, indoor performances may be held at 100 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 250 individuals. Individuals or groups of people must remain six feet apart.
  • Large venues, including sports and entertainment venues, with a fixed seating capacity of 2,500 or more may host events at 20 percent capacity indoors; the 20 percent capacity limit excludes participants, such as athletes and performers, and staff, such as coaches and ushers, but include patrons and other members of the public. Individuals or groups of individuals that purchase tickets together must remain six feet apart. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the large indoor venue capacity limit will increase to 30 percent and will apply to all venues with a fixed seating capacity of 1,000 or more.
  • Indoor meetings of addiction support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, must be limited to 35 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 150 individuals.
  • Legislative and judicial proceedings are not subject to the limits on indoor gatherings.

Outdoor Gatherings

  • General outdoor gatherings must be limited to 500 people and social distancing must be practiced. Attendees or groups of attendees are required to remain six feet apart from other groups. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.
  • There is no limit for outdoor gatherings for wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions, funerals, memorial services, religious activities, or political activities.
  • Outdoor catered events are limited to 500 individuals, excluding staff, as long as appropriate social distancing can be maintained. Learn more. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.
  • Outdoor sports practices and competitions may exceed the general outdoor gathering limit under specific exceptions, described in this article.
  • Outdoor performances at outdoor entertainment centers, including movie theaters, performing arts centers, and other concert venues, are limited to a number that ensures that all people can remain six feet apart, but no more than 500 people. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.
  • Large venues, including sports and entertainment venues, with a fixed seating capacity of 1,000 or more may host events at 50 percent capacity outdoors; the 50 percent capacity limit excludes participants, such as athletes and performers, and staff, such as coaches and ushers, but include patrons and other members of the public. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.

Safety Tips For Gatherings

To avoid putting your loved ones at risk as COVID-19 cases remain high, the NJ Department of Health has offered safety tips for in-person gatherings:

  • Wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay home if you are sick.
  • Given the current surge in COVID-19 cases, only gather indoors with immediate household members if possible. Indoor gatherings are particularly dangerous places for the virus to spread. Host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities as much as possible.
  • If you do host indoors, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • The smaller the gathering is, the less likely it is that someone is infected and put loved ones at risk.
  • Require guests to wear masks when not eating, whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  • Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others outside their household.
  • Make hand sanitizer available for guests.
  • Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
  • When hosting activities, do so with people only from your local area as much as possible. Activities with attendees traveling from different locations increase the risk of infection and spread, especially if they are coming from or traveling to a location with higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread.
  • Remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to the virus in the last 14 days, are showing COVID-19 symptoms, or recently travelled to an area or a state with high COVID-19 infection rates.
  • Limit the number of people handling or serving food—for example, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
  • Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food.
  • Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so guests do not share a towel.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.
  • Consider keeping a list of guests who attended for potential future contract tracing needs. If you are called by a contact tracer, it's critical that you answer the call to protect us all. Your help is the key to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.
  • Download the COVID Alert NJ App. The app is New Jersey's free and secure mobile app that anonymously alerts users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. COVID Alert NJ uses Bluetooth proximity technology, never records any identifying data, and all users will remain anonymous. Download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

For more information on rules for indoor gatherings, refer to paragraph 1 of Executive Order No. 225 and paragraph 1 (b-i) on page 6 of Executive Order No. 152.

For more information on rules for outdoor gatherings, refer to paragraph 4 of Executive Order No. 204 and paragraph 2 (b-i) on pages 7 of Executive Order No. 152.

Source: Executive Order No. 152; Commissioner Persichilli's Remarks 7/29/20; Executive Order No. 183; Commissioner Persichilli's Remarks 10/15/20; Executive Order No. 204; Executive Order No. 225; Executive Order No. 230; Executive Order No. 238