New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed an executive order to drop the statewide indoor mask mandate and 6 feet of physical distancing in most settings, with few exceptions. The new measures will take effect Friday, May 28.
Businesses can continue to require physical distancing and masks for employees and customers, Murphy said during a briefing.
Mask requirements will still apply in health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, childcare facilities, youth summer camps, on public transportation, in travel hubs like airports and stations, and also in public-facing offices like the Motor Vehicle Commission.
Unvaccinated individuals were strongly urged to follow CDC guidance and continue to wear masks in indoor public settings.
On June 4, the state will lift all indoor gathering limits, including the 30% limit on large indoor venues with a fixed seating capacity of 1,000 or more.
“These steps when all added together are the clearest signs of our commitment to carefully and deliberately reopen our state after what has been a truly crushing almost 15-month period,” Murphy said, noting that the state’s indoor mask requirement went into effect last April amid an initial wave of infections.
“We didn’t know much about this virus then but the prevailing science now tells us this is a predominately airborne virus,” he continued. “The mask mandate was unquestionably the right call, we know this has saved lives.”
State health data indicates over 4 million New Jersey residents are fully vaccinated, and 4.7 million people have received at least one dose.
The news comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance on May 13, saying people who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus no longer need to wear masks while indoors or outdoors or physical distance in either large or small gatherings.
Murphy said the CDC’s guidance was a surprise and stoked confusion nationwide.
“I do not, for one minute, regret our taking these extra two weeks to ensure that the dramatic decreases we have begun seeing in both cases and hospitalizations would continue. I do not regret listening to a host of medical and scientific experts including Dr. Tony Fauci, who spoke of a need to be more cautious to prevent a backslide.”