NJ ends its indoor mask mandate as it tries to boost vaccination rates

New Jersey

JERSEY CITY — New Jersey officially ended its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people on Friday, just in time for the holiday weekend to begin.

At the same time, the Garden State launched a program to get people vaccinated along the beaches and boardwalks of the Jersey Shore.  The combination left businesses, officials, and residents alike hoping for as safe a summer as possible.

Gov. Phil Murphy summed up the situation with an announcement he made from the boardwalk in Asbury Park.

“Today, with the lifting of the indoor masking mandate,” he said, “we are taking one of the biggest steps yet, if not the biggest step that we can take to move forward, [and] get back to the things that we all love.”

The change now allows people to go without face coverings indoors, as long as they’re vaccinated.
However, as Raquel Negron, who has not yet gotten vaccinated, pointed out, “There is no database that anybody’s going to pull up.to see if you’re really vaccinated.” And, she added,  “you can fake a [vaccination] card.”

Because there’s hardly any way for a business to easily tell which of its customers is vaccinated, and which is not, some business owners are saying that they’ve got to navigate an unclear path forward. 

Jeffrey Favia, who owns Jeffrey’s, and at least two other restaurants in Jersey City, had just removed some of the plexiglas barriers at the bar at Jeffrey’s when he talked with PIX11 News about how to proceed without an indoor mask requirement.

“We don’t even know what to expect,” he said. “There’s going to be a a certain percentage of human beings who don’t feel comfortable being close to other people.”

That’s part of the reason why Gov. Murphy and State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli were down the shore on Friday.  They were promoting their Shots at the Shore initiative.  

All weekend, at locations in Asbury Park, Long Branch, and Sandy Hook, the Visiting Nurse Association will operate centers offering all three approved vaccines to everyone age 12 and up who show up.  

The governor said that his administration is just hoping that cool, wet weather that’s forecasted for the weekend won’t keep people away.  Even if it does, he said, he’s optimistic that a variety of state programs will continue to improve vaccination rates, which are currently at 73% for adults.

“It’s one of many different initiatives under the umbrella of Operation Jersey Summer,” the governor said about the Shots at the Shore program. “So we shall see,” he added.

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