New Jersey Forgoes Indoor Mask Mandate for ‘Strong Recommendation’
(Bloomberg) -- Governor Phil Murphy urged New Jerseyans to mask indoors when Covid-19 transmission risk is increased but stopped short of issuing a mandate for face coverings.
The decision came a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its indoor mask policy for vaccinated people in a bid to stem a cases surge linked to the contagious delta variant.
“Our metrics are trending in the wrong direction, and new data suggests the delta variant is more transmissible even among vaccinated individuals, which is why we are making this strong recommendation,” the governor and state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a joint statement.
Across New Jersey, hospitalizations have increased 55% since the start of the month, to 473 on July 27, according to state data. The transmission rate, which measures how many people are infected by a virus-positive individual, is 1.5, the highest since the pandemic’s initial New Jersey peak, and greater than the second wave linked to late-year holiday gatherings.
In lieu of a mandatory requirement, Murphy urged “personal responsibility” to “mask up indoors when prudent.” The governor, a 63-year-old Democrat running for a second term in November, recommended the precaution when there is a chance of close contact with people who are not fully vaccinated.
New Jersey, with 5.3 million fully vaccinated people, reached its 70% immunization target last month. Murphy said the state’s new cases “are a fraction of those in many other states, most of which have significantly lower vaccination rates.” Still, he said, should New Jersey’s numbers rise, he will consider a statewide masking mandate.
Monmouth County, where Atlantic Ocean beach towns are in peak vacation season, is the state’s sole county that has high community transmission, according to national CDC data mapping from July 19-25. Across the U.S., the majority of counties fall into that category.
Monmouth County, about 54 miles (87 kilometers) south of Manhattan, has reported a 2% cases increase in the past month, compared to 1.3% statewide. Officials believe the county’s cases are delta-variant driven and spreading particularly at parties and sporting events.
“It’s just people enjoying closer contact and not wearing masks,” David Henry, health officer for the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission, said in an interview.
Seven other counties are categorized as substantial, or with second-highest transmission risk. They include Bergen, the most populous county in New Jersey, and Ocean and Atlantic, both destinations for beach vacationers and key to a tourism industry that generates more than $5 billion annually in state and local tax revenues.
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