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Friday, April 12, 2024


NJ to Lift Indoor Mask Mandate, Other Covid-related Restrictions

Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker tour the field hospital in Edison April 8

By Press Release

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy May 24 signed Executive Order No. 242, lifting major Covid restrictions and moving forward with the state’s most significant reopening steps to date. 
According to a release, effective May 28, the indoor mask mandate in public spaces will be lifted, as well as the 6-foot social distancing requirement in both indoor and outdoor spaces, the prohibition on dance floors at bars and restaurants, and the prohibition on ordering and eating/drinking while standing at bars and restaurants. Additionally, effective June 4, indoor gathering and capacity limits will be lifted. 
Over the last two weeks, key Covid benchmarks have been achieved across New Jersey, including a dramatic increase in vaccinations, and significant decreases in new Covid cases, hospitalizations, spot positivity rates, and rates of transmission, solidifying the foundation for the state’s sweeping reopening steps. 
Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, individuals who are not fully vaccinated – defined as two weeks after receiving the second shot of a two-dose vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccination (Johnson & Johnson) – are strongly encouraged to continue masking and social distancing.  
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, my administration has been guided by science, data, and facts to put New Jersey on the road to recovery with the public health and safety of all New Jerseyans as our highest priority,” stated Murphy. “Together, we have made tremendous progress in crushing this virus, and the last two weeks have shown significant decreases in key areas of our data, including new Covid cases, hospitalizations, spot positivity rates, and rates of transmission. These data points, coupled with a dramatic increase in our vaccination efforts resulting in over 4.7 million New Jerseyans with their first shot, allow us to lift major restrictions and move forward with our most significant reopening steps to date.” 
The following changes will go into effect on Friday, May 28:

  • Lifting the mask mandate in indoor public spaces
    • Businesses and entities overseeing indoor spaces will continue to have the ability to require masking for employees, customers, and/or guests. 
    • Per CDC guidance, masks will continue to be required in health care settings, including long-term care facilities and office-based settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation, as well as transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
    • Additionally, also per CDC guidance, child care centers and facilities, youth summer camps, and public, private, and parochial preschool program premises and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, are not affected by this announcement and continue to be governed by existing requirements. 
    • Indoor worksites that are not open to the public remain governed by existing health and safety protocols that employers must follow.
    • Masks will continue to be required in public-facing state offices, such as Motor Vehicle Commission agencies.
  • Lifting the 6-foot social distancing requirement
    • The requirement will be lifted in businesses, including retail stores, personal care services, gyms, recreational and entertainment businesses, and casinos, and indoor gatherings, including religious services, political activities, weddings, funerals, memorial services, commercial gatherings, catered events, sports competitions and performances.
    • Businesses and entities overseeing indoor spaces can continue to require social distancing should they choose.
  • Lifting prohibition on dance floors at bars and restaurants. The prohibition on ordering and eating/drinking while standing at bars and restaurants will also be lifted.

The following changes will go into effect Friday, June 4:

  • Removing the general indoor gathering limit, which is currently at 50 people.
  • Removing the indoor gathering limit for political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services, performances, and other catered and commercial events, which is currently at 250 people.
  • Removing 30% capacity limitation for indoor large venues with a fixed-seating capacity over 1,000. 

For the full text of Executive Order No. 242, click here.
Cape May County issued the following release after the governor’s announcement to end the indoor mask and social distancing mandates.
COURT HOUSE –  Gov. Phil Murphy announced May 24 that fully vaccinated people will not need to wear masks indoors, except under certain circumstances, beginning May 28.
According to a release, the latest news follows previous guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the latest of many restrictions that have been lifted this month, ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.
Cape May County officials have been working hard throughout the pandemic to keep Covid cases as low as possible while trying to ensure that the county’s businesses can fully reopen safely this year. Cape May County has had one of the strongest vaccination programs in the State of New Jersey, and now the CDC reports that 64% of the county’s adult population is fully vaccinated. The goal is to reach 70% by the end of June.
This is a continuation of efforts that began prior to last summer. Cape May County Commissioner Vice-director Leonard Desiderio and Commissioner Will Morey co-chaired the Cape May County Recovery Task Force, which, along with business leaders and local mayors, created “A Proposal for the Safe, Thoughtful and Progressive Reopening of Cape May County During the Time of Covid-19,” ahead of last summer. The goal was to open local businesses, but in a safe and responsible way.
The Task Force also worked with Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland on the “Safely Together” media campaign, which the county continues to use in messaging. It invited visitors to the Jersey Cape, but with reminders of safety protocols.
“Helping businesses during the reopening last year was some of the most important work I have participated in during my time as a county commissioner,” stated Desiderio. “We continue to work as a county to safely reopen. We welcome the news relaxing indoor mask mandates ahead of our unofficial start to summer this weekend. We expect a great summer at the Jersey Cape.”
The Cape May County Department of Health worked closely on these initiatives, while also adding additional layers of support. They provided Covid testing last year, at a time when testing was tough to access.
The Department of Health also created the Social Distancing Ambassador Program, at the direction of Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton and Commissioner Jeffrey Pierson, who is the liaison to the county’s Department of Health.
The ambassador program gained national attention and promoted safety protocols through positive reinforcement. They distributed thousands of masks to visitors and residents in Cape May County. To assist with vaccinations, they coordinated with Fare Free Transportation, under the direction of Commissioner E. Marie Hayes, to ensure people that needed rides to the vaccination clinic could receive one.
Equally as crucial has been working with community partners to reach the homebound, homeless, and other hard-to-reach communities to bring the vaccination to them. The Department of Health also hosted task force calls with municipal and community partners during the entire pandemic to update them on the latest Covid news.
“The leadership from all of the departments and my colleagues on the Commissioner Board during this time has been amazing,” stated Thornton. “I truly believe that our case numbers have been among the lowest and our vaccination rates have been highest because of the hard work that has been done over the past 15 months. I continue to be in daily communication with the Governor’s Office to advocate for issues impacting Cape May County as we keep pushing to open Safely Together.”
The Cape May County Department of Health’s vaccine clinic has moved from Avalon Community Hall to the field house at Lower Cape May Regional High School. The Clinic will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and anyone who wants the vaccine can walk in. Also, to help those who can’t get in during work hours, the clinic will be open from 3-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
“We are glad to now offer these flexible hours for people to get vaccinated,” stated Pierson. “This is another example of how the county government is working to make services more accessible to our residents and ensure we get people vaccinated. I am proud of the work from our Health Officer Kevin Thomas and his entire team at the Cape May County Department of Health, along with our municipal partners that have helped us on-site at our vaccine clinic.”

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