Murphy on outdoor masking: It’s not about politics — it’s about being sick or healthy

File photo Gov. Phil Murphy, in a patriotic facemask.

Gov. Phil Murphy did not have complete specifics Wednesday on his executive order requiring the wearing of masks outdoors. For instance, it’s not clear who will enforce it — and what the penalty will be for those in violation.

And he certainly didn’t have the answer for the specific examples that were thrown his way during his COVID-19 briefing — though he did say masks are not needed for kids playing sports.

Most of all, he offered this: Use common sense to guide you.

“No matter what the order says to the letter of the law: Put on a face covering if you’re going out, it’s really that simple,” he said. “A lot of this comes to common sense and personal responsibility.”

Murphy said you should wear a mask whenever you are out in public and in a crowd, specifically in a line.

“This is absolutely vital when individuals find themselves in a crowded situation — such as when walking down a packed boardwalk or in a line that is not properly spaced apart,” he said.

The only exceptions, he said, are when individuals are eating and drinking at an outdoor dining establishment, those for whom wearing a face covering endangers their health or safety, and children under 2 years old.”

Don’t overthink it, Murphy said.

“If you’re in your bubble with your family or you’re sitting by yourself or doing something on your own — that’s not our focus,” he said.

“Our focus is gatherings with lack of social distancing with folks who are in different bubbles and different families and different circumstances coming together and you just cannot properly social distance.”

Murphy, who strongly hinted at the idea Monday, said it is a decision he takes reluctantly — but one that public health dictates.

“Requiring masks outdoors is a step I had hoped we would not have to take,” he said. “And, by and large, New Jerseyans have been outstanding in their compliance when masking up to go outside was our strong recommendation. But, unfortunately, we have been seeing a backslide in compliance as the weather has gotten warmer — and, not surprisingly, our rate of transmission has similarly crept up.”

Murphy then stressed he hopes people would not view the order through a political lens.

“Wearing a face covering is not about politics,” he 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 — especially if you have not been tested and you don’t know if you’re an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus.

“It’s about showing your community what side you’re on in the fight against COVID-19.

“Trust me, this virus doesn’t care what political party you belong to. It doesn’t care what you may or may not think about masking up. It doesn’t care about you or your family. It just wants to kill you and move on to the next victim. It does care if you wear a mask. Period, full stop.”

The order, of course, did have resistance.

District 10 legislators Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano, all Republicans, sent out a statement questioning the basis of the order.

“If people are comfortable wearing masks, they should feel free to do so,” they said. “What we are asking for is choice. Requiring masks without any clear rationale is troubling.

“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?

“This new directive, four months into the health emergency, feels arbitrary and hollow. We all would benefit from knowing more about Murphy’s justification and motivation.

“Residents should use common sense, avoid crowds and physical contact, and keep your distance.”

At the briefing, Murphy chuckled at the idea groups would protest the order.

“If people want to protest about something that is saving lives, you’ve got to wonder what they’re thinking,” he said.

Murphy closed with his strongest line:

“Not wearing a mask isn’t a sign of strength, it’s not a symbol of politics — not wearing a mask is an act of selfishness, plain and simple,” he said. “It’s a sign that you think you’re invincible, and damn everyone else.

“The time for selfishness ended back in March.”

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