Where do you still have to wear a mask in NJ this summer
As the state moves closer to its goal of 4.7 million fully vaccinated adults by the end of June, Gov. Phil Murphy has announced new executive orders, rolled back parts of others and clarified conditions for a wider return to "normal" in New Jersey since arguably March 2020.
However, the exceptions to the lowering of mask requirements and slightly staggered timeline for other settings continue to present confusion and frustration. Below are a roster of questions and answers based on the most updated data and guidance in state, heading into Memorial Day weekend.
Do I need to wear a mask outdoors?
No, there is no longer any state or federal guidance requiring or advising individuals to wear masks while outdoors, regardless of vaccination status for COVID-19.
Do I need to wear a mask while at a restaurant, shopping, while exercising at a gym or at my salon or barbershop?
Masks no longer would be required by executive order at indoor public places as of Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday. This applies to people who are vaccinated or not, although the governor asked non-vaccinated people to take responsibility and wear masks or maintain social distance.
Do restaurants still need to keep extra space between their tables?
No, starting Friday, social distancing requirements are lifted and dance floors can reopen at bars and restaurants.
Can a business still require me to wear a mask while indoors at their establishment?
Yes, the updated directive from the governor allows for businesses to require facial coverings, as the pandemic is not over, at their own discretion.
Can I stop wearing my mask at work now, too?
That depends on the place of business. Public settings, like stores, fall into the requirements that are rolled back as of Friday. For private workplaces, the governor has announced that vaccinated employees can go maskless starting on June 4, provided they can verify their vaccination status.
What about while using NJ Transit or at Newark Airport, is a mask still required?
Masks are still being required regardless of vaccination status while at public transit stations, hubs and on modes of transportation - from train, to bus to airplanes.
What other places do I still need to wear a mask?
In healthcare settings, at the MVC and other state agencies and at jails, according to either state or CDC guidance. Masks will still be required of state employees in their workplaces, whether open to the public or private.
Can my employer force me to stop wearing a mask, regardless of my vaccination status?
No, under the updated guidance that takes effect on June 4, “employers shall not restrict individuals from wearing masks and shall not penalize or retaliate against individuals who choose to wear a mask.”
Can a business or workplace ask me for proof of vaccination to determine mask requirements?
Yes, they can. While there have been many social media memes and threads about privacy regulations that apply to a healthcare provider sharing a person’s information without their consent, those HIPAA laws do not apply to most other circumstances, according to multiple news outlets and by the outline of HIPAA at the CDC website.
Dr. Howard Markel, who directs the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine, was asked about the issue of vaccination privacy for an April blog on the center’s website.
“You are free to make choices about vaccination, but all of our choices have consequences,” Markel said. “It simply means you won’t be able to go places or do things that will require you to show you’ve been vaccinated. If you think that’s freedom, have at it.”
Do children still need to wear masks at school?
Yes, as still recommended by the CDC and by the state’s updated directive.
Masks are still required when not eating or drinking or engaging in strenuous activities, or in extreme heat when heat exhaustion is more possible.
Murphy noted that many students are not eligible to get vaccinated, as the country remained in the early stages of Pfizer doses being administered to those 12 and up, while Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines remained approved for those 18 and older.
The governor said just as they updated guidance for the upcoming school year over the summer months last year, he expects there to be possible changes before all schools are expected to return in-person, full time at the end of August.
What about at summer camps?
As of Wednesday, the state directive for masking at summer camps remained in line with the CDC guidance last updated in April, which calls for mask wearing among day and overnight campers.
Dr. Eddy Bresnitz noted at the state briefing that the CDC was expected to update such camp guidance, to which the governor agreed, seemed prudent given the mainly outdoor nature of many camp settings.
Murphy also said that unlike installing plexiglass barriers, or ventilation systems or measuring out six feet of distance between cohorts, changing a mask policy can be done easily, “one day to the next.”