Murphy to Order New Jerseyans to Mask Among Outdoor Crowds

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he will mandate wearing masks outdoors for people among crowds in public places as data show the virus again is spreading.

The order won’t apply to people if they’re alone or with family members, Murphy said at a Trenton news conference. “If you’re in your bubble with your family or sitting by yourself or doing something on your own, that’s not our focus.”

The face coverings will be required outdoors in cases where social distancing isn’t possible. “Unfortunately we’ve been seeing a backslide in compliance,” Murphy said. “Our focus is gathering with lack of social distancing.”

The governor also said he will allow limited indoor dining, so long as the restaurant’s design allows at least two sides to be opened to the outdoors, increasing air circulation. Murphy had scuttled a planned July 2 return to indoor dining as what he called “knuckleheads” in New Jersey were crowding outdoors, and novel coronavirus cases were increasing in Sunbelt states.

The order comes as the state reported its transmission rate continues to climb -- from 1.05 on Tuesday to 1.10, showing the virus is spreading. Murphy has called the increase “an early warning signal.” About a month ago, the statistic, an average of how many people a virus-carrying individual infects, was 0.64.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf a week ago announced a similar policy on face coverings, saying that hot spots could be traced to circumstances in which people weren’t masking or social distancing.

Murphy said New Jersey was the first state to require face coverings indoors, after an initial coronavirus case was reported March 4. New York and New Jersey were hit early and hard, and as virus transmission in those states slowed, it was starting to rise elsewhere in the country.

Massachusetts on May 26 ordered masking in public spaces indoors and outdoors when social distancing was impossible. Michigan on June 17 started requiring face coverings in grocery stores and pharmacies. Kansas mandated them on July 3 for those in public places, although most counties have rejected the order and said they would only recommend face coverings.

New Jersey officials said this week that 12 of 13 new cases in Hoboken were tied to out-of-state travel, and an outbreak in Sussex and Warren counties, in the north, had their origins in a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

New Jersey, New York and Connecticut -- whose cases peaked several weeks ago -- have advised visitors from 19 states with high occurrences to self-quarantine for two weeks.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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