Murphy, saying it’s help to workers, again defends decision to keep indoor mask mandate

While nearly every state in the country has dropped the requirement to wear a mask indoors — New York will do so Wednesday — Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday that New Jersey will keep its mandate.

It’s a precaution for workers, he said at his COVID-19 briefing.

“There remains a simple reason why the indoor mask requirement will remain in effect,” he said. “While we have made tremendous progress, we aren’t out of the woods yet. 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 the hardware store.

“I don’t know how we can expect workers to be able to tell who is vaccinated from who isn’t. And it is unfair to put the burden on business owners and frontline employees to police every patron.”

Murphy said those in certain high-risk settings, such as correctional facilities and long-term care facilities, and activities involving infants and children, like child care and summer school, will continue to require or strongly encourage masks for all individuals given the vulnerable nature of the populations.

“This is supported by the updated CDC guidance,” he said.

Murphy said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has said that mask mandates remain a local decision — and noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci has cautioned that premature widespread removal of mask mandates, especially indoors, could reignite the virus.

He also said that, even though New Jersey has never had a general outdoor mask requirement in situations without crowds, he will sign an order Monday that eliminates the outdoor mask mandate altogether in settings open to the public.

Murphy said he has no concern about the potential political ramifications of his decision.

“The political fallout of this is of zero interest to me,” he said. “It’s easy to be in the third deck of the cheap seats and color commentary of what we should do.

“End of the day, somebody dies, that’s what we’re trying to prevent from happening.”

Murphy indicated the state’s stance does not differ that greatly from the CDC’s.

“To be sure, the CDC guidance is clear that fully vaccinated people are much safer to engage in everyday life than unvaccinated people,” he said. “This is even more reason for every eligible New Jerseyan to make the decision to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“The best thing we can do, for now, is to keep our indoor mask mandate in place in public settings to protect you, your family, the workers and the entire community.”

Murphy, who last week extended the current public health emergency for what he hopes will be the final time, said he is working with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) to reach a legislative solution that will give the state a path forward to ensure that it maintains the necessary tools to protect the public’s health and safety for the duration of the pandemic.