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NJ removes mask mandate for indoor public spaces, social distancing requirements

New Jersey lifted its masking mandate for indoor public spaces and social distancing requirements just more than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated individuals can forego both measures. – Photo by Flickr.com

New Jersey’s mask mandate for indoor public spaces and social distancing requirement were lifted today, and additional capacity restrictions on indoor gatherings are set to be removed in the coming days.

Dance floors at bars and restaurants may reopen as of today, and individuals are no longer required to remain seated while ordering or eating and drinking at bars and restaurants, said Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) Monday at a press conference.

The 50-person general indoor gathering limit and the 250-person limit for catered and commercial events such as weddings, funerals and political gatherings — updated just last week — will be removed entirely on June 4, he said. The 30 percent capacity limit for venues with at least 1,000 fixed seats will also be lifted.

“The last two weeks have shown significant decreases in key areas of our data, including new (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, spot positivity rates and rates of transmission,” Murphy said, according to a press release. “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.”

Individuals who are not yet fully vaccinated are encouraged to continue masking indoors and remaining 6 feet apart from others in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, Murphy said. Meanwhile, individual places may continue to require occupants to wear masks and exercise social distancing.

Masking remains required in the following places: health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, public transportation, transportation hubs such as airports and stations, childcare facilities, youth summer camps, preschool buildings, elementary and secondary schools and worksites closed to the public.

Though, employers in workplaces closed to the public may allow vaccinated employees to forego masking and social distancing starting June 4, Murphy said, according to a press release.

The lift of indoor masking requirements in New Jersey comes just more than two weeks after the CDC released updated guidance stating that fully vaccinated individuals may forego indoor masking. Murphy said he kept the mandate until now because it has saved lives and could have saved more if New Jersey had implemented it a mere week or two earlier.

“That is why, when the CDC took all of us by surprise and updated its masking guidance … we did not act in a knee-jerk fashion,” he said. “I do not for one minute regret taking these extra two weeks to ensure that the dramatic decreases we have begun seeing in both cases and hospitalizations would continue.”

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