TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy has lifted New Jersey's stay-at-home order, largely ending one of the biggest pandemic restrictions in place since March 21.

The latest executive order paves the way for indoor and outdoor religious services to resume, for large outdoor graduations to be held in early July and for most outdoor and recreation businesses to resume.

The new rules allow for indoor gatherings of 25% capacity but with a 50-person limit. Indoor dining at bars and restaurants are still prohibited; eateries will begin serving diners outdoors on June 15. Murphy did not mention other services such as gyms.

Murphy cited the latest research that indicates that the reduced risk of the virus spreading outdoors.

The relaxed rules comes after weeks of declining hospitalizations and rate of new infections from the coronavirus, which Murphy attributed to the state's aggressive social-distancing efforts that began months ago.

"Social distancing must remain our practice and our priority, covering our faces must remain our practice and priority and that is because it's worked," Murphy said Tuesday. "We would not be at this point today had we not taken this step."

The development also comes after Murphy took heat this week for participating in an anti-racism street protest on Sunday.

Limits on outdoor gatherings have been raised from 25 to 100 people. Outdoor gatherings related to First Amendment activities such as religious services and protests can include more than 100 people.

The outdoor gathering limit will be raised to 250 on June 22 and then to 500 people on July 3, in time for graduation ceremonies that can begin on July 6.

The new rules allow all outdoor and recreation businesses to reopen except for playgrounds, casinos, amusement and water parks and arcades, which Murphy said are "high-touch" locations with large amounts of people.

Municipal and club pools as well as barber shops and salons already were scheduled to reopen on June 22.

Murphy said the order is not a requirement that all houses of worship reopen, citing some faith leaders who told him that they do not believe that they are ready to resume larger in-person services just yet.

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