People in New Jersey will continue wearing masks in indoor public places regardless of vaccination status "for the time being," says Governor Phil Murphy.
Murphy's announcement came hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that his state would modify its mask guidance on Wednesday, May 19, to be in line with the CDC's latest recommendation.
In the same news conference, Murphy announced that New Jersey was withdrawing its outdoor mask rule and lifting its COVID travel advisory, which required visitors to quarantine. He added that all schools will be open for full-time in-person learning this fall.
The governor admitted that he was uncomfortable repealing the mask requirement among the vaccinated at this point in the state's fight against COVID. He worried such an action would put undue pressure on frontline workers dealing with the public each day.
"While we have made tremendous progress, we are not out of the woods yet," Murphy said. "The majority of New Jerseyans are still unvaccinated and we're not checking anyone's vaccine status at the door when you go to the supermarket or to a hardware store, for instance. I don't know how we can expect workers to tell who is vaccinated from COVID and who isn't — and it is unfair to put the burden on business owners and frontline employees to police every patron."
He said that the indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people will be withdrawn in the "not-so-distant future" as more people are vaccinated, but the state wants to guard against a "backslide in our progress."
Murphy's announcement makes New Jersey one of few states with more stringent COVID guidelines than those the CDC recommends. It also comes in contrast to the impending expiration of indoor mask rules for the fully vaccinated in New York and Connecticut.
While New Jersey's COVID numbers have vastly improved recently, just six weeks ago it had the highest per-capita COVID case rate in the nation.
COVID positivity in New Jersey is now at its lowest level in months. Over the weekend, the Garden State became the largest state in the country to have reached the key threshold of having vaccinated 70 percent of adults.
As of Thursday, the CDC revised mask its guidelines, announcing that fully-vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or social distance indoors or outdoors, except while on public transportation, in a healthcare environment or at an establishment that otherwise still requires masks.
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