You are now mandated to wear a mask outside in public in New Jersey when social distancing isn’t possible to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus — but there are some exceptions to Gov. Phil Murphy’s new executive order.
The order Murphy signed Wednesday does not require you to mask up if:
- You are eating or drinking outdoors at a restaurant or bar.
- A face covering endangers your health and safety.
- You are a child under the age of 2.
- You are walking alone or with your family in your neighborhood, a park, or beach.
- You can keep 6 feet or more from people other than your family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.
- You are “engaging in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities.”
- You are in water.
- You have to briefly remove the mask for religious reasons.
- You are in an outdoor space at child-care centers facilities and youth summer camps.
But Murphy said it is “absolutely vital” for people to wear masks if they in a large gathering in a public outdoor space and can’t easily keep their distance from each other — like walking on a packed boardwalk or waiting in line to get food.
“If you’re in your bubble with your family or sitting by yourself, that’s not our focus,” he said at his press briefing in Trenton.
People in New Jersey have been required since early April to wear masks when in a public indoor space, like a store or eatery. Masks outdoors has been only strongly recommended until now.
Murphy said the new edict is needed because there isn’t a “national strategy” on masks and the virus remains a risk outdoors even though it’s more likely to spread inside.
The governor also said New Jersey has seen “a backslide” in people wearing masks as the weather has warmed.
Plus, though the state’s number new COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalization have fallen dramatically, Murphy noted the virus’ transmission rate in New Jersey has jumped back past 1 in recent days — meaning every newly infected person is passing it to at least one other person.
“Wearing a face covering is not about politics,” Murphy said. “It’s about, quite simply, being sick or being healthy. It’s about life and death. It’s about showing others that you care about their health.”
Murphy said he knows enforcement will be a challenge.
The order says violators can receive summonses for disorderly persons offenses — similar to how the governor’s previous coronavirus orders have been enforced. Those tickets carry jail terms of up to 6 months and/or fines of $1,000.
Officials did not clarify who would enforce the order. Local law enforcement, as well as the State Police, have enforced Murphy’s previous orders. Officials often announce significant violators in public, with the governor referring to them as “knuckleheads.” It’s unclear if Murphy will do the same with this order.
A number of Republicans have harshly criticized Murphy’s decision, suggesting there isn’t enough science to show masks are effective and the governor overstepping his authority.
State Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano, all R-Ocean, said the order “feels arbitrary and hollow” coming four months into New Jersey’s outbreak.
“Is this decision based on hard evidence, or as a salve to calm anxiety as residents are bombarded with conflicting statistics about the virus and its impact?” the lawmakers asked.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli on Wednesday said “wearing a face covering has shown to dramatically decrease the release of droplets from people’s mouths” and is an “important barrier to the transmission of respiratory viruses.”
Persichilli also cited a study in the journal Health Affairs, that estimates orders to wear masks prevented 230,000 to 450,000 cases in the U.S. cases over three weeks in April and May.
New Jersey, a densely populated state of 9 million residents, has reported 15,423 known deaths attributed to COVID-19 — 13,476 lab-confirmed and 1,947 probable — with 174,039 known cases in a little more than four months since the state’s first case was announced March 4.
Officials on Wednesday reported 53 new deaths related to the virus and 335 new cases.
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