New confusion over NJ mask rules: Still required at your job?
Following the announcement by Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday that most mask and social distance requirements in New Jersey will be lifted May 28, there is growing confusion about how this new directive impacts businesses.
The governor’s latest executive order states people in retail stores, restaurants, gyms movie theaters and most other indoor venues, including concert halls no longer need to wear a face covering and they no longer need to stay 6 feet apart from other individuals starting this Friday.
However, this is not the case for private businesses.
According to Executive Order 242, employees and visitors at private businesses and offices, described as spaces which “do not open their indoor spaces to the public for purposes of sale of good, attendance at an event or activity, or provision of services,” must remain masked unless they are in their own offices or at 6-foot distanced workstations.
This means anyone in New Jersey entering a private business or office, or walking down a hallway, for instance, would presumably need to stay masked, while thousands of people crammed together at a rock concert who are singing and screaming for hours can go mask-less.
According to State Senator Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, the problem is the Murphy administration can’t resist micromanaging everything pandemic-related, and maintaining “what are certainly now ridiculous rules, regulations, restrictions, guidance, executive orders, I mean there are thousands of pages here, certainly hundreds that make no sense.”
He said at this point, even as more and more New Jersey residents get vaccinated and the COVID metrics keep improving, we still have a hodge-podge of “rules, regulations and restrictions that just now make absolutely no sense, they need to eliminate all of it, it’s all gotta go at this point, it’s insanity and it needs to stop.”
He said many of the COVID regulations that remain in effect are contradictory and open entities up to liability lawsuits.
“You’ve got people trying to run offices, homeowner associations trying to run pools, for instance,” said O’Scanlon. “There’s still pages and pages of ridiculous guidance, micro-managing the operation of pools.”
He said forcing employees at companies to mask up if they want to go get a drink of water in an office is nonsensical.
“They are under greater restrictions than a restaurant with thousands of people coming through it,” he said. “It’s insanity and it all should have been stricken.”
Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said many private businesses are confused about the ongoing mask mandate.
“It seems extremely counter-intuitive and arbitrary and we’re trying to understand this,” she said.
She said the private business mask requirement “seems very odd because that’s an environment that we can control even more perhaps than you could to a public facing environment (like a retail store)."
Siekerka pointed out the governor’s latest executive order only addresses masking and social distancing but “other prior requirements such as temperature checks and daily health screens, things like that, the constant sanitation, etc., continues to remain in place.”
Executive order 242 indicates while masking and social distance requirements are being dropped for “ indoor public spaces” they remain in effect for child care centers and other child care facilities as well as summer camps and public, private and parochial preschool program premises and elementary and secondary schools.
Siekerka said it’s imperative to lift capacity and other restrictions at child care centers so parents can rejoin the workforce.