New Jersey will join its regional neighbors—and most other states—in dropping indoor masking rules, Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday.
Murphy is ending masking in most places on Friday, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start of summer. He’s also ditching social distancing requirements for businesses.
“At a certain point we gotta open up and we believe that this is the right point to do that,” Murphy said during a press briefing in Trenton on Monday.
New Jersey was one of a handful of states that didn’t immediately move to lift indoor masking requirements following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week Murphy defended his position saying he didn’t want to put the burden on local employees to verify customers’ vaccination status.
But on Monday, Murphy said the continuing drop in hospitalizations and cases in recent days, coupled with moves by New York and Pennsylvania to ditch masking rules was enough to make the case for additional reopening measures.
“If you’re in the only state in the entire neighborhood and everybody else is doing something differently, at a certain point, it puts a significant amount of pressure on our business community,” he said.
Masks are still required while on public transit and inside health care facilities, prisons and homeless shelters. The new guidelines don’t affect schools or child care centers, where masking is still required and kids are kept at least three feet apart.
The new guidelines mean bars and restaurants can reopen dance floors and no longer have to require patrons to order food at their tables. It also impacts casinos, gyms and hair and nail salons and allows large stadiums like MetLife stadium to operate on full capacity and welcome back Giants and Jets fans.
Additionally, starting on June 4th, the state will lift all indoor capacity limits. That means weddings and other catered events will no longer be capped at 250 people and large indoor venues with more than 1,000 seats, like the Prudential Center, will be able to pack their concert halls again. Currently, large venues with indoor seating are capped at 30% capacity. Private gatherings which are capped at 50 people will no longer have restrictions.
Murphy is still encouraging those who aren’t vaccinated to continue wearing a face covering and socially distance while inside public places. He said individual businesses may also require people to show their vaccination cards or choose to continue requiring face masks and keep groups apart.
“We have no issue with that, you may do that. What you can’t do is make people take a mask off as a price of admission,” he said.
So far, more than 4 million people have been fully vaccinated in New Jersey, a little less than half the state’s population.