Gov. Phil Murphy, announcing that he has signed an executive order requiring face masks to be worn outdoors in situations where social distancing is not possible, singled out boardwalks as one of the locations where they must be worn.
“It is impossible to social distance at a crowded boardwalk,” he said, indicating there would be only three exceptions to the outdoor mask requirement:
- Individuals who are “clearly eating or drinking” at an outdoor establishment.
- Children under 2-years-old.
- People with medical conditions that prevent them for wearing an outdoor mask, or undertaking “strenuous” exercise, including children playing sports.
The wide-ranging mask order comes after Murphy called for a national mask-wearing policy over the weekend. His reasoning behind the expanded mask mandate includes coronavirus outbreaks in 19 other states as well as a slight uptick in the transmissability of the virus in New Jersey. The transmission rate in New Jersey rose to 1 this week, meaning one person with a positive case will transmit it to one other person, on average. The rate had been 0.6 in recent weeks, while at the height of the pandemic, the state’s rate was about 5.
“Requiring masks outdoors is a step, frankly, I had hoped we wouldn’t have to take,” Murphy said at his daily press briefing Wednesday. “Unfortunately we have been seeing a backslide in compliance as the weather has gotten warmer … and our rate of transmission has crept up.”
Murphy said wearing a mask outdoors is a step being taken for the “common good.”
“It’s about life and death, it’s about showing others that you care about their health, especially if you’ve not been tested and you don’t know if you’re an asymptomatic carrier,” said Murphy. “It’s common sense to the common good. It’s an homage to your family, your friends, your community. It’s a step and a signal that you care about them.”
Murphy did take the opportunity at his briefing to announce that restaurants with fixed roofs, as long as they have two walls open, constituting 50 percent of wall space, will be considered an outdoor restaurant for legal purposes and may open.
The governor pushed back at those who see mandates to wear masks as a political move rather than a dedicated health policy. Coronavirus “does not care which political party you’re a membero of,” he said. “It does care, however, if you wear a mask. Period, full stop.”
Murphy declined to articulate how the order will be enforced and what the penalties will be for those who violate it. His attorney, Matt Platkin, said those details will be revealed once the executive order is signed and released later today.
He did, however, say businesses must formulate plans for employees to wear masks.
“Each office will have to have a policy for when their workers are in frequent contact,” said Platkin. “The mandate for businesses, specifically, is a policy.”
Murphy, under questioning from reporters, said the outdoor mask order is focused on situations where social distancing is not practicable.
“If you’re in your bubble with your family or sitting by yourself, that’s not our focus,” said Murphy. “One example, you’re in a line somewhere and you’re not able to be near your family, mask up.”