Memorial Day weekend this year won't be a total washout. Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday morning that it is now OK for New Jersey residents to have outdoor cookouts with their families or neighbors – as long as people keep their distance and try to wear face coverings.

Murphy is raising the 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings to 25 people. The limit on indoor gatherings remains at 10 people.

Campgrounds and outdoor recreation facilities can reopen immediately as long as social-distancing is in place and organized gatherings are provided clear demarcations for distancing.

Outdoor restaurant dining is still banned, although that may soon change, Murphy said. He also expects to release information about graduations next week.

"As we enter this weekend, yes, please enjoy it but don't get complacent," he said. "Let's have a great weekend and prove that we can keep these trendlines moving in the right direction."

For the past two weeks, Murphy has been slowly easing restrictions put in place in March and April to limit the spread of the devastating coronavirus. Hospitalizations and new cases have been steadily declining since the peak on April 15.

The Murphy administration, however, has been facing increasing pressure to hasten the reopening of businesses and religious facilities. On Thursday, the state Republican Party filed a lawsuit to get a court to declare Murphy's orders arbitrary because they pick and choose which businesses can continue to operate. The administration has also been sued by gun ranges, a handful of small businesses, parents of high school seniors seeking outdoor graduation ceremonies, and some religious leaders.

On Friday, two conservative lawmakers, state Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren, and Michael Testa, R-Cape May, introduced legislation that would limit a governor's executive orders to 14 days unless the Legislature approves a longer period of time.

Murphy's mantra has been that "public health determines economic health and data determines dates."

On Friday, the state added 146 COVID-19 deaths to the total of 10,985 since the start of March. More than 4,000 of those deaths have been tied to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

More than 3,000 COVID-19 patients remain hospitalized in New Jersey, with 674 on life support.

But Murphy said the numbers keep improving daily. On Thursday, hospitals admitted 151 new COVID-19 patients but discharged 259 survivors. Murphy said this was a credit to the public's adherence to social-distancing and stay-home measures.

"Make no mistake," he said. "You all did this."

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