Gov. Phil Murphy hinted throughout the day on April 28 that the state can expect an “accelerated reopening” as New Jersey ramps up its COVID-19 vaccine efforts and key metrics like daily cases and hospitalizations are brought under control. However, that likely won’t lead to a change in the state’s mask policies.
“If the progress continues on the health front, we will continue to accelerate the reopening of the state, the governor said during an April 28 evening appearance on WNYC’s “Ask Governor Murphy.”
The latest reopening moves came on April 26, when the governor expanded capacity for outdoor gatherings and outdoor venues like concert halls. Those take effect on May 10.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out a more aggressive reopening schedule for indoor businesses, which goes into effect at the start of next month. New York City can begin offering bar seating May 3, Cuomo announced. And a curfew on indoor and outdoor dining is being lifted at the end of next month.
New Jersey’s COVID-19 restrictions still prohibit bar seating.
“There’s just no other way to put it. We’ll have more news on that on Monday,” the governor said during a COVID-19 press conference earlier in the day.
A potential scenario where New Jerseyans travel to neighboring New York with its lower restrictions on restaurants, or to a state like Pennsylvania, was a particular concern for him.
”We don’t want that and New York doesn’t want that,” the governor said.
At the start of the pandemic last year, the governors of the Mid-Atlantic region said they wanted to stay in lockstep with their respective business shutdowns and subsequent reopening efforts. But Connecticut was the first in the tri-state area to announce it would lift its COVID-19 business restrictions, effective May 19, save for a facemask requirement.
New Jersey has typically trailed behind its neighbors, drawing the ire of business advocates and Republican lawmakers.
Widespread business reopenings, nonetheless, are incumbent on widespread COVID-19 vaccination efforts, as well as a slowdown in the COVID-19 pandemic.
We all wear masks?
Throughout the day on April 28, Murphy also said that New Jerseyans can expect to see few, if any changes to when they should wear a mask following a new set of guidelines the federal Centers for Disease Control put out this week.
“Our policy from day one I think, it will stay that way at least for the time being,” Murphy said during his “Ask Governor Murphy” appearance.
“If you’re outdoors and you can’t socially distance, you need to wear a mask,” he said. “If you can, you don’t need to wear a mask.”
The updated CDC guidance shrinks the number of situations where fully-vaccinated people need to wear a mask, compared to someone who has not gotten the shot.
“The feds have basically mimicked what we’ve been doing all along, although they’ve added the dimension of being fully vaccinated,” Murphy said during a COVID-19 daily press conference earlier on Wednesday.
Outdoor activities, regardless of vaccination status are safe, the CDC said, but only among people who are alone or gathered with immediate family members. Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors or outdoors without a mask in small groups. They do not have to wear face coverings when outdoors in small groups, even with people who haven’t had their COVID-19 shot. And, they don’t need to wear masks if they’re dining outdoors with friends or family.
For vaccinated and unvaccinated people, masks should be worn whenever they’re attending a crowded outdoor event such as a sports competition, live performance, or parade. But those activities are much higher risk for those who haven’t gotten their shots, the CDC said.
The feds have basically mimicked what we’ve been doing all along, although they’ve added the dimension of being fully vaccinated.
-Gov. Phil Murphy
Any person, regardless of whether they’ve gotten the shot, is still urged to wear a mask for any indoor activities, the CDC said. But those are still a lower risk for anyone that is fully inoculated.
One key difference separates what the state and federal governments are doing, Murphy pointed out in the afternoon. That is “that you need to be vaccinated to” not wear a mask outdoors. “We’ve not had that requirement, and I don’t expect that we will … We’re going to leave it where it is,” he said.
Roughly 4.8 million adults have gotten at least one shot – 60% of New Jersey adults – most of them from the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and a small percentage with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson doses. Full immunity is not built until two weeks after the second shot.
The goal is to fully vaccinate 4.7 million adults by the end of June 30, and the state is nearing 3 million total shots. State health officials contend that threshold is key to building widespread herd immunity that could curtail the spread of the virus, and in turn, lead to lifting COVID-19 business restrictions en masse.
Declining COVID-19 numbers – lower cases and hospitalizations, and a slower spread of the virus – are another vital measure to determine how ready the state is for further reopening.
Those numbers have moved in the “right direction,” Murphy said on WNYC.
The rate of transmission – or how fast the virus spreads – was 0.80 as of April 28, down from 0.88 the day before. The state logged less than 2,000 cases on April 28, for several days in a row. And there were 1,788 COVID-19 hospitalizations, the lowest patient count in five months.