Murphy not ready to lift indoor mask mandate — even for those fully vaccinated

Governor, following CDC recommendations, is OK lifting use outdoors — but said, ‘We are not there yet’ when it comes to indoor situations

Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday afternoon he was thrilled to see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance on mask wearing — or not wearing, as the case may be for fully vaccinated individuals. Especially for those outdoors.

Murphy, however, said the state is not ready to change its guidelines mandating everyone to wear a mask indoors. He is close to that point, he said, but not there yet.

“I would guess, in a matter of weeks, we’ll get to the point when we can comfortably say, ‘You know what, inside, no matter what, you’re OK,’” Murphy said. “I have to say, at this moment in time, we are not there yet.”

Murphy, speaking at a community vaccination event in East Orange, said the CDC’s announcement validates the state’s continual push toward vaccinations — and that he agrees with the idea that fully vaccinated people can go without a mask outdoors.

“(The CDC announcement was) further validation that, if you’re vaccinated, you’re in a completely different category than those who are not vaccinated,” he said. “And that’s good to see that affirmation as clearly stated as they stated it.

“As it relates to folks being outdoors being among vaccinated persons, I think we can do away with our masks. I think, if you’re not vaccinated, when you’re outdoors and you’re still in close proximity, you should still be wearing your mask.”

Indoors, Murphy said, is still different.

If you’re among family and friends at a small gathering, such as a birthday or graduation party, Murphy said vaccinated people should feel comfortable going without a mask.

Murphy, however, said he still has concerns for indoor situations involving people outside their own personal bubble.

The biggest issue, he said, is enforcement.

“Think about the hardware store employee, the essential worker in retail, putting the burden on them to try to distinguish between who’s vaccinated and who’s not vaccinated,” he said.

Murphy said the state will have an announcement on update travel quarantine regulations on Monday.