New Jersey will join the rest of the nation this Memorial Day Weekend when an indoor mask mandate due to the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted.
Gov. Phil Murphy confirmed what had been widely reported that effective May 28, Garden State residents can remove their masks if they are fully vaccinated when entering indoor public spaces with some notable exceptions.
“The steps we’ve announced today are the clearest signs of our commitment to carefully and deliberately reopening our state,” said Murphy at his press briefing May 24. “We continue to trend in the right direction with every indicator and our vaccination numbers increased dramatically over the last two weeks.”
Murphy noted the decline in key health metrics coupled with an increase in the Garden State’s vaccination efforts resulting in over 4.7 million New Jerseyans with their first shot in the last two weeks “allow us to lift major restrictions and move forward with our most significant reopening steps to date.”
Still Required in Certain Places
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, my administration has been guided by science, data, and facts to put New Jersey on the road to recovery with the public health and safety of all New Jerseyans as our highest priority,” added Murphy. “Together, we have made tremendous progress in crushing this virus, and the last two weeks have shown significant decreases in key areas of our data, including new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, spot positivity rates, and rates of transmission.”
Murphy was one of two state governors in the nation that did not lift the indoor mask mandate when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention rolled out its guidance.
Murphy noted indoor mask mandates are continued to be required at:
- Healthcare settings, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters;
- On airplanes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation;
- In transportation hubs such as airports and stations;
- Public-facing state offices, such as New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission locations;
- Worksites that are closed to the public, including warehousing and manufacturing facilities;
- Child care centers and facilities;
- Youth summer camps;
- Public, private, or parochial preschool program premises; and
- Elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools
Murphy said individual businesses can require a mask for entry and people who feel more comfortable wearing a mask in public can continue without facing any repercussions or restrictions.
“If you feel more comfortable wearing your face mask when shopping or waiting for your table at a restaurant, by all means, you may continue to do so,” he stated. “No one should mistake lifting the indoor mask mandate as meaning you cannot wear a mask indoors…there is nothing wrong with being cautious when it comes to your own health and that of your family and community.”
Murphy added, “To be equally sure, we will not tolerate anyone being demeaned or bullied for wanting to continue to mask up…Lifting the mask mandate is not a license to be a knucklehead.”
The decision to broadly lift the indoor mask mandate was not the only one Murphy announced.
Dance the Night Away
On the same date the indoor mask mandate is lifted, the prohibitions on dance floors at bars and restaurants as well as ordering and eating/drinking while standing at bars and restaurants can resume.
And the requirement for maintaining six feet of social distancing in indoor and outdoor settings will cease. That will allow for full capacity at MetLife, Prudential Center, casinos and other large entertainment venues throughout the state.
“I am proud that we’re a rare example of a state that didn’t have to put our residents or businesses through a merry-go-round of lockdown to reopening to lockdown to reopening,” said Murphy. “We’ve only moved in one direction: forward.”
State officials stressed that while the health metrics are better, the pandemic is not over.
“Lifting the mask mandate is simply acknowledging how far we’ve come together and that, together, we’ll cross the finish line,” said Murphy.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 8,389,452 in-state, plus an additional 357,974 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 8,747,039 as of May 24. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,914,039 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 167,075 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 4,081,114.
Demographically, 54% of those vaccinated are women and 46% men. As for ethnicity, 53% are White, 13% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 8% unknown. In regards to the age of those having received the vaccine, 28% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 29% are between the ages of 30-49, and 15% are between the ages of 12-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 925,258 doses (435,147 fully vaccinated), Essex 684,223 doses (314,136), Hudson 585,741 doses (263,080), Morris 554,885 doses (261,282), Passaic 417,787 doses (192,669), Sussex 128,720 doses (60,866), and Warren 82,985 doses (38,981).
As of May 24, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 885,987 with 260 total new PCR cases reported. There were 40 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 128,203. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,014,190.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 10 new deaths, bringing that total to 23,440. The state listed probable deaths at 2,660, bringing the overall total to 26,100. State officials noted seven deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on May 24, Bergen had a total of 33 new confirmed cases and four probable cases, Essex 30 new cases and three probable cases, Hudson 23 new cases and no new probable cases, Morris 11 new cases and no new probable cases, Passaic 20 new cases and one probable case, Sussex seven new cases and five probable cases, and Warren nine new cases and no new probable case.
There are a total of 4,295 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 3,968 cases of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), 160 cases of the California variants (B.1.429 and B.1.427), 156 cases of the Brazilian (P.1) variant, and 11 cases of the South African (B.1.351) variant.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,674, followed by Bergen at 2,565, Hudson with 2,055, Passaic at 1,716, Morris at 970, Sussex at 234 and Warren County at 211.
In regards to probable deaths reported May 19, Bergen has 297, Essex has 296, Morris has 255, Hudson has 214, Passaic has 197, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission reported May 24, it increased to 0.64 from 0.51 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of May 20, was 2.1%; by region, the rate was 2.1% in the North, 2.1% in the Central region and 2.2% in the South.
Officials reported 699 patients were hospitalized; 602 cases were confirmed and 97 are under investigation. By region, there were 358 in the North, 161 in the Central and 180 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 148 are in intensive care units and 102 on ventilators. A total of 67 patients were discharged, while 55 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 90,227, followed by Middlesex at 85,255, Essex at 85,099, Hudson at 79,325, Monmouth at 68,048, Ocean at 66,208, Passaic at 66,108, Union at 60,999, Camden at 49,506, Morris at 42,471, Burlington at 38,882, Mercer at 32,231, Gloucester at 27,208, Atlantic at 25,628, Somerset at 24,977, Cumberland at 15,540, Sussex at 12,398, Warren at 9,663, Hunterdon at 9,616, Salem at 6,284, and Cape May at 5,344.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,642, followed by Union at 11,095, Ocean at 10,254, Essex at 9,548, Hudson at 9,313, Morris at 8,348, Monmouth at 8,146, Middlesex at 7,544, Passaic at 7,425, Atlantic at 6,729, Camden at 6,718, Burlington at 6,046, Somerset at 5,863, Cape May at 4,668, Gloucester at 4,080, Mercer at 2,479, Sussex at 2,413, Cumberland at 2,331, Warren at 1,127, Hunterdon at 1,007, and Salem 647.
Another 748 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 281 outbreaks involving 1,263 cases, accounting for 18 additional outbreaks and 106 cases from the previous weekly update on May 17.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 53 confirmed outbreaks with 202 cases, Sussex has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 78 cases, Passaic County has 16 confirmed outbreaks with 57 cases, Warren has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 36 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has five confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 155 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 3,901 of the cases, broken down between 1,547 residents and 2,354 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,463 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,878 residents and 22,268 staff, for a total of 55,146.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,050 on May 20. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,885 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.