April 08, 2020
All New Jersey residents and essential workers are now required to wear masks while in retail outlets – including grocery stores and pharmacies – during the coronavirus pandemic.
The mandate, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday, is aimed at mitigating asymptomatic spread of COVID-19. Some 25% of people infected by the coronavirus do not display symptoms, but they may still be able to transmit the virus.
Employees can limit the amount of time people without masks can spend inside a store. They also can request they steer clear of other customers. But it does not appear there will be any other punishment, according to NJ.com.
"My personal guidance is you gotta go out and find something to put on your face before you come in," Murphy said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended everyone wear cloth masks when leaving 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 their germs.
Murphy's executive order also implements stricter social distancing guidelines in order to "mitigate overcrowding." Stores are now required to limit the number of customers to 50% capacity, provide special shopping hours for high-risk individuals, place physical barriers between customers and employees where necessary, and regularly sanitize areas used by employees.
"We are taking this step to protect both customers and essential workers," Murphy said. "Ensuring social distancing may require you to change the times in which you go to the store, but that's a small price to pay to assure the health of your community."
New Jersey has 47,437 COVID-19 cases, including 1,504 deaths due to COVID-19, as of Wednesday afternoon. Most cases are in North Jersey. South Jersey has 2,363 cases, including 58 deaths.
Many stores in the Philadelphia region have already implemented exclusive shopping hours for senior citizens, pregnant women and people with autoimmune diseases.
Murphy ordered all non-essential businesses to shut their doors last month to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Among those considered essential: grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and banks.