NJ ‘not there yet’ on ending mask mandate — You can’t tell who’s vaccinated
UPDATE: Gov. Murphy intends to end 'state of emergency' in June
Gov. Phil Murphy used one of his favorite phrases to explain why he's keeping New Jersey's mask mandate for indoor public places despite new guidance from the CDC: "We’re not there yet."
The CDC on Thursday announced that people who are vaccinated will no longer have to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.
After visiting a vaccination clinic in the parking lot of ShopRite in East Orange with Whoopi Goldberg on Friday, Murphy keyed in on what the CDC didn't clarify in their guidance: How do you determine who is vaccinated?
"If you’re in a business or a public setting, we’re not there yet. Think about the hardware store employee, the essential worker, retail in a ShopRite. Putting the burden on them to try and distinguish who’s vaccinated and who’s not vaccinated," Murphy said.
Murphy's decision threatens to cast doubt on his credibility, which state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, said he has already lost.
"If the CDC says the science supports unmasking today, Gov. Murphy cannot claim that maintaining these restrictions serves any legitimate purpose," Pennacchio said Friday.
The governor has said he would consider vaccine passports but was also concerned about the inequities it brings. President Joe Biden has said the federal government would not create vaccine passports but he had no problem with businesses and venues coming up with a program.
Later on Twitter, Murphy said he was worried about a backslide.
"Dr. Fauci himself said yesterday that he thinks lifting indoor mask mandates at this time could lead to a rise in infections. So we’re not going to let up for the next few weeks as we keep pushing forward on our statewide vaccination goals," Murphy said.
In East Orange, Murphy offered some some hope that the mask mandate will likely be lifted soon when 70% of adults in New Jersey are fully vaccinated.
"Once we get to our 70% of adults, once the kids are vaccinated, plus the folks who have had COVID-19, sooner rather than later in a matter of weeks, we’ll get to the point where we can say no matter what, you’re OK. As of this moment in time we’re not there yet," Murphy said.
Murphy did go along with the CDC guidance in that fully vaccinated adults who are outside "can do away with our masks."
And the governor was on board going maskless indoors in private settings.
“If it's indoors and personal in nature. A birthday party. A graduation in your home with your loved ones and folks you know who are in your family bubble not wearing a mask, we feel that to be something that is responsible," Murphy said with state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli at his side.
New York state and New York City did not change their mask policies. Pennsylvania (except for Philadelphia) announced it will follow the guidance but said a mask mandate remained in effect for non-vaccinated individuals until 70% of the adult population is fully vaccinated; the state is at 66%, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.
As of Friday, the state Department of Health said nearly 3.8 million people were fully vaccinated in New Jersey.
Murphy said that quarantining after travel beyond New Jersey's neighboring states will be addressed on Monday. The CDC in its guidance also said that was no longer necessary.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ