Insisting “we’re not there yet,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that New Jersey will still require all people — vaccinated or not — to wear masks indoors in public to protect against the coronavirus, even after federal health officials released updated guidance that says masks are no longer needed for fully vaccinated Americans in most circumstances.
But those who are fully vaccinated in the Garden State no longer need to wear a mask outside, Murphy said. Those who aren’t vaccinated still need to wear masks when in “close proximity” to others, he said.
Murphy also stressed that this is a temporary situation, saying mask orders could change in the coming weeks.
“With all respect to the CDC, we have made extraordinary progress,” the Democratic governor told reporters during a public event tin East Orange with Whoopi Goldberg to boost vaccination efforts.
Murphy noted how the state last month had the highest infection, hospitalization, and death rates in the country to seeing numbers drop dramatically over the last couple of weeks.
“And a big part of that reason is that folks are getting vaccinated and folks are doing the right thing,” he said. “And so as far as we can tell and as much as we want to get there — and we will get there, as it relates to indoor masking, it’s only a matter of time — if you’re in a business and a public setting, we’re not there yet. We’re frankly not there yet.”
But Murphy added the state could be there “within a matter of weeks.”
The governor did say the CDC’s guidance is “further validation that if you’re vaccinated, you’re in a completely different category” when it comes to wearing masks.
New Jersey — an early coronavirus hotspot and home to the most COVID-19 deaths per capita in the U.S. — has required people to wear masks indoors in public since last April. People have been required to wear masks outside only when social distancing isn’t possible since July.
The new CDC guidelines say “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two weeks after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The CDC still calls for fully vaccinated Americans to wear masks in crowded indoor settings, such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters. Plus, people who are immune-compromised are encouraged to speak with doctors before dropping masks. Officials also noted that some business settings may still require masks, especially since some workers may remain unvaccinated. And they said unvaccinated people should still wear masks indoors in public.