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New Jersey tightens restrictions as COVID-19 surges across the United States

Nov 16 (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday announced stricter capacity restrictions for both indoor and outdoor gatherings as more U.S. states took steps to combat the latest coronavirus surge.

A maximum of 10 people would be allowed to gather indoors in New Jersey, down from 25, while the limit for outdoor gatherings would drop from 500 to 150.

“It’s gotten worse and it’s gonna get worse,” the Northeastern state’s Democratic governor said in an interview with MSNBC.

As total U.S. infections crossed the 11 million mark - just over a week after hitting 10 million - states across the nation reimposed restrictions to stem the resurgent virus that is straining many healthcare systems.

Dr. Alexander Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said hospitals in Missouri could run out of capacity in two weeks as cases in the Midwestern state continue to rise.

“If this continues, we’re absolutely going to need more staff, more help, more of everything to deal with the crush of patients that we see coming at us,” Garza told CNN on Monday.

Forty U.S. states have reported record increases in COVID-19 cases in November, while 20 have seen a record rise in deaths and 26 reported record hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally of public health data.

The latest seven-day average shows the United States is reporting more than 144,000 daily cases and 1,120 daily deaths, the highest for any country in the world.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday ordered a ban on in-person high school and college classes as well as indoor dining service for three weeks starting on Wednesday as increasingly cold weather drives people indoors where the virus can spread more easily.

She banned public events at concert halls, casinos, movie theaters, skating rinks and other venues. In-home gatherings will be limited to 10 people from no more than two households.

The Democratic governor warned that without aggressive action her Midwestern state could soon suffer 1,000 COVID-19 deaths per week.

“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” Whitmer told a news conference. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”

Another Democratic governor, Washington state’s Jay Inslee, announced a one-month ban on indoor services at restaurants and gyms, and a reduction of in-store retail capacity to 25%.

Indoor gatherings would be prohibited outside of one’s household and outdoor gatherings would be limited to five people in the Northwestern state under Inslee’s order.

The slew of grim records and news was partly offset by Monday’s announcement by drugmaker Moderna that its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19, based on interim data from a late-stage trial.

Together with Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, which is also more than 90% effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could have two vaccines authorized for emergency use in December with as many as 60 million doses available this year.

Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; additional reporting by David Shepardson and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis