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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that he believes the state will get to the CDC’s new guidelines on masks “in short order,” but that people should still wear masks if they’re indoors unless it’s with people in your bubble.

He later announced an intention to end the state’s public health emergency related to COVID-19

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control said that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can largely do away with masks indoors.

Murphy spoke Friday at a walk-up COVID-19 vaccination event in East Orange, alongside actor Whoopi Goldberg. 

Murphy has said that fully vaccinated people can forgo masks outside, but hasn’t lifted an indoor mandate. The governor said it’s “only a matter of time,” perhaps weeks before the mask mandate is lifted in New Jersey.

“We saw the announcement yesterday from the CDC,” Murphy said. “Further validation by the way, that if you are vaccinated, you are in a completely different category than those who are not vaccinated. It is good to see that affirmation as clearly stated as they stated it.”

Murphy added that while the state recommends that if you’re vaccinated and outdoors or indoors with loved ones and people within your bubble you can ditch the mask, he still thinks there are reasons to wear the mask indoors around strangers and in close proximity to others.

The governor stated that further guidance would be coming at a press conference on Monday, including how the state plans to react to the CDC’s pronouncement on quarantining after travel.

“With all respect to the CDC, we have made extraordinary progress,” Murphy added. “We have gone the past month from being the state with highest per capita hospitalizations and fatalities, it has dropped over the past couple of weeks 78% of the key metrics. And so as far as we can tell, and as much as we want to get there, and we will get there as it relates to indoor masking, its only a matter of time, if you are a business or a public setting, we are not there yet, we are frankly not there yet.”

He asked people to think about essential workers and not to put the burden on others to determine which people are vaccinated and which are not.

Murphy reiterated that outdoors, people who are vaccinated don’t need to wear a mask.

When asked by a reporter about possible confusion between the CDC’s guidelines and the state’s, the governor continued to reiterate the desire to flatten the curve.

“That is a concern, and again, we’re not trying to win any popularity contests, we are trying to keep people healthy and save lives,” he said. “It is our strongly held opinion that as of this moment in time, if you are indoors and it is not a private setting, I’m not talking about your birthday part, but you are in ShopRite, you’re in a hardware store, we can’t put the burden on the guy or the gals working there to be the arbiter of who is vaccinated and who is not. We’ve made the progress that we’ve made over the past month where we’ve broken the back of this thing, and we’ve got the chance to drive this into the ground if we can only hang on for a few more weeks.”

Later Friday, the governor, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced a plan to end the state’s public health emergency for COVID-19.

“After an extremely difficult year, we are seeing the results of our mitigation efforts and our successful vaccination program,” said Gov. Murphy in a statement. “In order to continue on the path to normalcy, we need all available resources to continue our progress in vaccinating New Jerseyans and finally beating back this pandemic. Our Administration is working closely with Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin on legislation that will allow the public health emergency to expire, but ensure that we have the necessary tools and flexibility to continue the fight against the pandemic, including the vaccination efforts that are our highest priority.”

The current public health emergency is slated to expire in mid-June.

The state’s Republicans and several of the candidates for the GOP nomination for governor hammered Murphy over the statements regarding masks.

New Jersey Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick echoed a call of many Democrats on past coronavirus guidelines.

“The governor says we need to follow the science,” said Bramnick. “The science tells us that it is safe to end social distancing and masking requirements for fully vaccinated people. Gov. Murphy should immediately follow the guidance from the leading public health agency in the nation.”

Republican State Sen. Kristin Corrado felt the governor was being hypocritical.

“For a guy who claimed early on that he’d be guided at every step by science, Gov. Murphy seems more driven by politics,” said Sen. Corrado. “He is quick to crack down, but when the science tells us otherwise he wants time to think about it.”

Republican candidate for governor and former Assemblyman Jack Ciatterelli tweeted that what Murphy was doing was “insane.”

Fellow Republican candidates Hirsh Singh and Phil Rizzo also criticized Murphy.

As of Friday, there have been 882,199 confirmed cases in the state since March 2020, and there have been 23,284 lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths, according to the state Health Department. However, the state announced just 766 new cases Friday, the lowest single-day total for a weekday since October.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to say whether he’ll change his state’s mask or social distancing rules in light of new federal guidance that eases rules for fully vaccinated people.

Cuomo said Thursday that the state’s mask mandate is still in place as his administration reviews the new federal guidance and consults with health officials in neighboring states.

His office said there’s no immediate update Friday.

In April 2020, the governor first required all people in New York over age 2 to wear a mask when out in public or unable to distance themselves from others.

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