Murphy said the pause would begin at 6 a.m. and go until Jan. 2. It covers all youth sports, but excludes college and professional athletics, Murphy added.
"We do not take this step lightly," said Murphy, a father of four. "As folks probably know I'm a huge sports fan and all of our kids play sports. I hope and intend to see the winter sports season in January."
The Democrat also said that the outdoor gathering limit would be reduced from 150 to 25 people beginning Dec. 7. The change won't affect outdoor dining, he said.
RELATED: Fauci says expect similar COVID-19 travel restrictions, advisories for Christmas holiday
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said in a statement that the order would affect only the start of high school ice hockey.
"We're hopeful that, with schedule modifications, the ice hockey season will be viable when the state's pause is lifted," the association said in an emailed statement.
New Jersey, like much of the country, has seen spiking cases and hospitalizations.
The weekly average of new daily cases topped 4,000 on Monday, up from 3,500 earlier this month and above the nearly 1,000 seen in October. New Jersey's hospitalizations reached nearly 3,000, Murphy said Monday, a level not seen since May.
There were also an additional 15 deaths reported overnight, the governor said, putting the total at 15,164 since the outbreak began in March.
MORE NEW JERSEY COVID NEWS
New Jersey announced Wednesday it is leaving what was formerly known as the Tri-State Travel Advisory. "As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout our nation, New Jersey will no longer utilize previously outlined metrics to inform its travel advisory," Governor Phil Murphy said.
Hospitalizations on the rise
As COVID numbers rise throughout New Jersey, hospitals have seen an uptick in patients who can't fight the virus at home over the past month.
Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection - ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.
The nation's top health officials are warning that recent travelers are at an increased risk of possibly spreading COVID-19 after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Americans should expect more COVID-related restrictions and advisories for the Christmas holiday, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert.
United Airlines has begun shipping the first batches of the COVID-19 vaccine on charter flights, a source told ABC News.
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