As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to swell, lawmakers and public officials are taking more drastic action and enforcing restrictions on how many people are allowed to gather together at one time.
On Monday, Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more, and requested that the people of New Jersey take social distancing seriously.
But two wedding parties in Lakewood, New Jersey, apparently didn’t get the memo.
Police were sent to break up not one, but two different weddings on Tuesday, the day after the new restrictions took effect, according to NJ.com.
“We stress that the public do their part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 by obeying the guidelines set forth by the State of New Jersey and encourage cleaning your hands often, staying home if your sick, covering coughs and sneezes, consider wearing a face mask if you aren’t feeling well, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and practice social distancing,” Lakewood Police Department Capt. Gregory Staffordsmith told NJ.com.
Police informed both venues’ staff members that gatherings of 50 people or greater were prohibited by the governor, and everybody in attendance vacated the area.
Lakewood Township Mayor Raymond Coles said the two venues where the weddings took place were unaware that Murphy’s ban had already gone into effect.
Earlier tonight at Fountain Ballroom in Lakewood, NJ Two weddings taking place with hundreds of people. So much for social distancing. pic.twitter.com/aUVFTiBj77
— ernie rokose (@ernierokose) March 18, 2020
But law enforcement officials in the area say they are concerned that such occurrences are indicators of how difficult it may be to convince people to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously.
Coles told NJ.com that the township attorney will be looking into whether the government can fine or otherwise penalize people who continue to gather in large groups.
He added that he understands how tough it must be to cancel a wedding after months of planning and preparation.
“You’d hope you wouldn’t have to [enact penalties] with everything going on in the news,” Coles said. “But if we stop this thing from spreading now, then we can get back to our lives more quickly.”
“We need to respect the restrictions,” he said.
Murphy expressed similar sentiments on social media:
“I take personal responsibility for the public health and safety of New Jersey,” he tweeted Wednesday. “If you are unhappy about our aggressive social distancing measures, I’m sorry. But your safety is my highest priority.”
I take personal responsibility for the public health and safety of New Jersey.
If you are unhappy about our aggressive social distancing measures, I’m sorry. But your safety is my highest priority.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 18, 2020
As of Saturday morning, there were 890 confirmed cases of the the coronavirus in the state, and 11 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Murphy said Friday that the number of positive tests will continue to rise as coronavirus tests become more available.
To be clear: the number of positive tests is rising, in part, because of expanding capabilities from private labs.
We expected these numbers, and we expect them to keep rising, in the short-term, as greater testing capabilities come online.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 20, 2020
“We’ve received 155 new positive test results since yesterday, bringing our statewide total to 890,” Murphy wrote. “To be clear: the number of positive tests is rising, in part, because of expanding capabilities from private labs.
“We expected these numbers, and we expect them to keep rising, in the short-term, as greater testing capabilities come online.”
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