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July 08, 2020

New Jersey implements stricter mask rule as COVID-19 transmission rate rises

Residents must wear face coverings in outdoor settings

Prevention Face Masks
New Jersey face coverings HughE Dillon/For PhillyVoice

New Jersey is now requiring people to wear face coverings when they are in public outdoor spaces and social distancing isn't possible.

If you’re going to be in an outdoor public space in New Jersey and are unable to stay six feet apart from other people, be prepared to have a face covering. 

Face masks are now mandatory in outdoor public spaces when social distancing cannot be enforced, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday. 

People who are eating or drinking at a restaurant or bar, children under the age of 2, and anyone with a personal health reason is exempt from wearing a face covering.

Face coverings are already required to be worn in all public indoor places. Officials had strongly encouraged people to wear masks outdoors – especially when social distancing was difficult. But with COVID-19 surging throughout much of the United States, Murphy made the practice mandatory. 

"Requiring masks outdoors is a step I had hoped we would not have to take," Murphy said. "By and large, New Jerseyans have been outstanding in their compliance. But unfortunately, we’ve been seeing a backslide in compliance in New Jersey and across our nation."

The face covering requirement comes just two days after New Jersey’s COVID-19 transmission rate eclipsed its highest level since April. The rate of transmission currently sits at 1.10, which means that every new coronavirus case leads to at least one additional infection.

New Jersey officials have attributed the spike to travelers coming from COVID-19 hotspots.

New Jersey, along with New York and Connecticut, implemented a travel advisory last month to strongly encourage such travelers to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Those quarantining are recommended to stay in place unless going out for essential services, such as groceries or medical care.

The travel advisory applies to people coming from states where the COVID-19 transmission rate either exceeds 10 infections per 100,000 residents or more than 10% of the state's total population tests positive. Both figures are over a seven-day rolling average.

That affects 19 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

"Several outbreaks across New Jersey are directly tied to travel from COVID-19 hotspots nationwide," Murphy said. "In order to responsibly continue down our road back to restart and recovery, we must remain vigilant in our collective effort to beat the virus and reduce the rate of transmission.

"I urge those arriving from one of these 19 states to self-quarantine and get a COVID-19 test to prevent additional flare-ups across the state and ensure the health and safety of their fellow New Jerseyans."

New Jersey residents who travel to impacted states also are expected to self-quarantine for two weeks upon returning home.

The state's increased COVID-19 transmission rate is a warning sign that residents must do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Murphy said. He urged residents to wear face coverings, quarantine after traveling and, if necessary, get tested. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone wear face masks when outside their homes. The masks do not protect the person who wears them; rather, they prevent sick individuals — including those who do not have symptoms — from spreading the coronavirus.

Both Pennsylvania and Philadelphia have implemented face covering requirements for all public spaces. 

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