TRENTON — Saying that the state is taking "the first true steps of our restart and recovery," Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday announced that child care centers could fully open on Monday, June 15.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

Murphy also announced a return of non-contact youth sports beginning June 22 and youth day camps on July 6.

He also said Friday that he expected to loosen the limit on indoor gatherings enough to allow more religious gatherings starting Friday, June 12.

The restrictions on non-essential retail and sit-down dining, however, remain in effect.

Early during the public health emergency, Murphy limited child-care services to the children of essential workers, such as doctors and nurses, police officers and supermarket employees.

"As more and more workers get ready to go back out to their jobs, we must ensure a continuum of care for their children," he said Friday.

The departments of Children and Families and of Health on Friday were releasing safety guidance and regulations for child care as well as youth recreation.

Murphy said the developments were a result of positive trends. Hospitalizations continue to drop, with 2,700 COVID-19 patients on Thursday – down from a high of more than 8,000 on April 14.

"We remain confident in our overall direction," he said. "These challenges are surmountable if we stick to it."

On the same week that Murphy announced that college and school graduation ceremonies could be planned for July 6 or later, he also gave the go-ahead to other youth activities with the exception for contact sports and contact drills.

"We want our children to be able to enjoy their summer with their friends participating in the activities that create lifelong memories," he said. "We want you to have an active summer with your friends playing the sport you love but at the same time to protect your health."

In other developments, Murphy announced the creation of a temporary $100 million short-term rental assistance program for low and moderate-income families who have had substantial reductions in income as a result of the pandemic. Families facing homelessness will be prioritized by the Department of Community Affairs.

In March and April, Murphy used executive orders to freeze evictions during the pandemic emergency and to allow tenants to dip into their security deposits to pay rent.

On Friday, the state reported 131 new COVID-19 deaths, for a total of 11,531. On Thursday, hospitals admitted 183 patients and discharged 231.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.