Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is asking some of its largest venues – Prudential Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center – to enact a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine requirement for any patrons seeking entry.
The request is part of an executive order Baraka signed on May 20 outlining business reopenings for the state’s largest city, as vaccination rates increase while cases and hospitalizations continue to drop across New Jersey and the nation.
“Large indoor and outdoor venues such as NJPAC and the Prudential Arena are requested to implement a mandatory vaccine policy prior to any patron entering the building,” the executive order reads.
State and federal officials have kept a largely hands-off approach to vaccine requirements, instead delegating that choice to individual businesses. In New York, masks are not required indoors for fully vaccinated patrons, but it’s up to the businesses and their staff to determine who is not vaccinated and needs to wear the mask.
Gov. Phil Murphy has stressed that he does not want to put any employers in that situation.
Baraka’s ask is just that – a non-binding request – and the two venues would not necessarily have to follow it.
The order also loosens restrictions for the hours that restaurants can offer sit-down dining.
Newark has largely enacted more stringent restrictions than the rest of the state, but Murphy has largely been supportive of whatever moves have been made by Baraka.
“They’re up against it and I don’t blame them for trying to turn over every stone,” Murphy said when asked in November about the potential city shutdown. “Who could blame them for trying to brainstorm here.”
Under NJPAC’s guidelines, patrons need to show that they’ve received either a vaccine, or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
“While we are currently the only venue in the state requiring testing or vaccines before a patron may enter our theaters, we feel this measure is necessary to ensure the safety of everyone on our campus,” reads an April statement from David Rodriguez, NJPAC’s executive producer.
NJPAC declined to comment for this story, while Prudential Center did not return email inquiries seeking comment. Over the Hudson River, the Yankees and CitiField baseball stadiums have seating for vaccinated patrons, where social distancing is not required.
Under the state’s most recent COVID-19 restrictions, which went into effect on May 19, outdoor venues with at least 1,000 fixed seats are limited to 50% capacity, as long as ticketed groups remain at least 6 feet apart, while indoor venues are limited to 30% capacity.
Murphy, when asked earlier this month if he could envision a fully packed MetLife stadium at the start of the football season this fall, said “I think there’s a good chance.” The stadium in the Meadowlands seats 82,500 people and is the home to the Giants and Jets.e