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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Governor not ready to ease outdoor mask mandate

Guidance on proms, graduations could come soon

By Nikita Biryukov, April 19 2021 3:18 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t prepared to remove the state’s outdoor mask mandate following Israel’s relaxation of the prohibition.

“We’re not there yet on changing our mask mandates. I hope we will be, but first of all, it’s a much warmer weather country than we are a state right now, so they can live,” Murphy said at Monday’s virus briefing. “I’ve been there a bunch of times. I can tell you in mid-to-late April, they are outdoors in a big way, and we’re not quite there yet.”

Israel dropped its outdoor mask mandate on April 18. The country of about 9 million has fully vaccinated more than 80% of its residents.

New Jersey, meanwhile, has fully vaccinated roughly 2.5 million residents, with 3.8 million having received at least one dose.

It’s possible the mask mandate could become a rallying cry among some sectors of the Republican Party. Though New Jersey’s GOP elected officials have shied from criticism of the state’s mask mandate, the topic was the subject of protests in the pandemic’s early months.

But the state may be preparing to loosen restrictions imposed on other summer events, Murphy said.

“I’m not sure it’ll be this week, but we actually have a meeting on this very topic this afternoon. But too early to give you an answer on proms, graduations and other summer stuff. I think on our list are day camps, for instance, so we want to hit several things,” he said of new restrictions for proms and graduations.

That guidance, he said, could come soon. It’ll likely coincide with the state’s warming weather.

“The weather getting a little bit better will allow us to live more of our lives outside,” he said. “That’s all cause for quiet, cautious optimism.”

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