May 21, 2021
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to lift the state's indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people in most settings next Friday. With falling COVID-19 transmission and rising vaccination rates, Murphy plans to announce the decision on Monday.
The pending change comes after the CDC last week eased indoor mask guidelines, giving wider latitude for vaccinated people to go without masks. Most of Pennsylvania quickly adopted the new policy, but New Jersey initially took a cautious approach. Murphy had said the state would not make the switch, but he did drop New Jersey's outdoor mask mandate.
In Philadelphia, the health department announced this week it would wait until at least June 11 to lift the city's indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people. Many remaining COVID-19 restrictions were eased Friday and the rest will be lifted altogether on June 11.
In New Jersey, more than 4 million residents are now fully vaccinated, accounting for about 45% of the state's population. About 57% of residents have received at least one vaccine dose. The state set a goal of 70% by the end of June, when it hopes to lift its public health emergency.
COVID-19 case counts have fallen sharply across New Jersey through May, according to the state's data dashboard.
Speaking in Sussex County on Friday, Murphy said the state's COVID-19 test positivity rate fell below 2% for the first time in six to eight months.
When Murphy initially said the state would not make the change, he cited the ongoing risk in dense urban areas and his discomfort with using an honor system that only vaccinated people would take off masks indoors, especially in businesses where workers can be exposed. The governor had said he did not want to New Jersey to backslide at a critical moment in the pandemic response.
But with Memorial Day weekend quickly approaching, it appears Murphy is now comfortable with the state's progress and ready to align with the CDC's guidelines.
Details about where masks may still be required indoors are expected to be formally announced on Monday.