The Murphy administration is now “strongly recommending,” but not mandating, that people wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status as the delta variant drives thousands of new COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated people across the nation.
Under the July 28 guidance, the state’s roughly 5.24 million fully-vaccinated New Jerseyans should wear a mask at indoor crowded settings – such as bars, restaurants, concerts and sporting events – and in places where they’ll be in close contact with those not fully vaccinated–or where they don’t know the vaccine status of everyone else they’ll come in contact with.
The recommendations come less than a day after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that due to recent surges in the delta variant, spreading mainly among those who have not been vaccinated, everyone in certain high-risk areas should wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, in their July 28 guidance, said they can crank up the recommendation to a full-blown statewide requirement should the need arise.
Murphy lifted the state’s mask mandate in May, roughly two weeks after the CDC put out guidance that anyone fully vaccinated did not need to wear a mask.
Daily cases, total COVID-19 patients, the positivity rate and the speed of transmission have recently risen to their highest levels in months, almost exclusively among those who have not gotten the vaccine.
The state logged 854 new cases on July 28, the highest since the start of the month.
According to the CDC, New Jersey’s seven-day average was 712 cases as of July 26–the highest since mid-May. The positivity rate among tests was 3.92% and the rate of transmission – or how fast the virus spreads – hit 1.51, up from 1.5 the day before. Anything above 1 means that the virus is once again spreading.
In regard to hospitalizations, New Jersey logged 473 COVID-19 patients Tuesday night, the highest since June 3.
“Our metrics are trending in the wrong direction, and new data suggests the delta variant is more transmissible even among vaccinated individuals, which is why we are making this strong recommendation,” the governor and health commissioner’s joint statement reads.
Many public health experts NJBIZ interviewed indicated that, should the governor decide to adopt new COVID-19 restrictions, an indoor mask mandate would be the first logical step–regardless of vaccination status.
Under the CDC guidance, anyone in a county with a “substantial” or “high” rate of transmission should wear a mask indoors. Federal data shows Monmouth county as having “high” transmission, while Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Ocean, Union and Passaic counties are all listed as having “substantial” transmission.
“[G]iven where our metrics are now, we feel the best course of action is to strongly encourage every New Jerseyan, and every visitor to our state, to take personal responsibility and mask up indoors when prudent,” Murphy and Persichilli jointly said.