By: Katie Francis, Writer / Follow South Jersey Public Health Intern
SOUTH JERSEY —
At his COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Governor Phil Murphy announced his intention to sign an executive order lifting the statewide indoor mask mandate, effective May 28. This is incredibly exciting news that signals another landmark towards the end of New Jersey’s fight against COVID-19, but residents should probably not toss their masks out just yet.
While many public places in New Jersey will begin operating with no mask requirements this Friday, some businesses will still require them. They aren’t required to do so by law, but businesses are still allowed to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing if they choose to. The updated CDC guidance also says that masks continue to be worn in certain high-risk places, and Gov. Murphy said that New Jersey will follow suit with this advice.
Healthcare settings and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals will continue to mandate mask-wearing. Other public long-term facilities like homeless shelters and correctional facilities also fall under this category, and all people in these places will continue to need their masks.
Masks must also be worn by both customers and workers on New Jersey public transportation. This includes airplanes, buses, trains, and public transportation hubs such as airports, bus stations, and train stations.
Public-facing state offices also remain under the mask mandate, including New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agencies. Worksites that are closed to the public, such as warehouses and manufacturing sites, are also required to maintain the mask mandate. Warehouses and manufacturing sites obviously don’t attract everyday visitors, so the mask mandate applies to employees and staff who work in these places.
Gov. Murphy also didn’t extend the executive order to child care centers and facilities, because children under the age of 12 aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet. Workers and kids at youth summer camps, as well as preschool program premises and elementary & secondary schools must continue to enforce mask-wearing. In the 48-or-so hours since New Jersey announced its plans to remove the indoor mask mandate, the state’s policy on schools has garnered the most negative backlash.
Masks are also strongly encouraged at indoor public settings for residents who aren’t vaccinated, and anyone can continue to wear a mask if they feel more comfortable doing so. New Jersey won’t require businesses to serve as “vaccine police” and expects community members to use honor system when they decide to wear masks or not.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.