Republican lawmakers attacked Gov. Phil Murphy over a new order requiring residents to wear masks outdoors.
“New Jerseyans have overwhelmingly complied with social distancing and common-sense safety measures, and they are to be commended for slowing the spread,” State Sen. Mike Dohert (R-Washington). “Enforcing a new mask mandate while cases have dropped is exploiting a public health crisis for power.”
The new order requires residents wear masks outdoors when they are unable to social distance from people outside of their households.
Murphy reluctantly made the move after New Jersey’s rate of virus transmission peaked above one for the first time in 10 weeks on Monday.
On Wednesday, it had risen to 1.1, meaning a single person infected with COVID-19 was transmitting the virus to more than one person on average.
Children under two years old are exempt from the order, as are outdoor-dining patrons and those with health conditions that prevent them from wearing a cloth face covering.
Republicans in the 10th legislative district issued a softer rebuke over the new mandate.
“If people are comfortable wearing masks, they should feel free to do so. What we are asking for is choice. Requiring masks without any clear rationale is troubling,” State Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R-Toms River), Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and Assemblyman John Catalano (R-Brick) said in a joint statement.
Murphy’s distaste for the pushback was clear in his response.
“STOP PLAYING POLITICS WITH PEOPLE’S LIVES,” he said on Twitter.
It’s not clear how the order will be enforced or what the punishments for non-compliance are. Murphy on Wednesday said only that authorities may issue warnings or “something worse,” deferring to the text of the order, which will be released later today, though he conceded that it would be difficult to compel residents to comply with the order.