Keep those masks on indoors!
That was today’s message from Gov. Phil Murphy.
It came three days after the CDC said that for the most part, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors.
Murphy said things are not that simple.
Stressing that mask mandates “remain a local decision,” the governor said the state’s thinking about masks in restaurants, stores and the like hasn’t changed.
“I don’t want to get burned, I don’t want to go back,” Murphy said, referring to improving metrics in regard to the pandemic.
More than once, he said the virus is “on the run,” but it’s not yet eradicated.
So masks still will be required indoors, but as Murphy put it, “not forever and always.”
He also raised a practical concern that encapsulates the confusion of it all.
If “fully vaccinated” people don’t need to wear masks indoors, how do others and in some cases, store employees, know they’re vaccinated?
Do they ask?
Do they guess?
Do they take people at their word – meaning do they assume a guy is vaccinated simply because he is not wearing a mask?
Murphy said answering those questions would be an “incredibly, unfair burden” for store and restaurant workers.
So he has concluded that it makes more sense to keep the indoor mask mandate in place. At least for now.
That raises another question. Why do those who truly are fully vaccinated have to wear masks?
The governor answered that by saying he is relying on New Jerseyans to be “selfless” and not “selfish.” In this vein, he described mask wearing as an act of courtesy.
All that is well and good, but there’s another reality. This is a gubernatorial election year – now less than six months away – and Republicans have been hammering Murphy for months about being too slow to “reopen” the state.
That will continue.
Not surprisingly, Murphy said he pays “zero interest” to the political fallout, noting that the goal here is to save lives.
Yet, he also said that it’s pretty easy for critics to criticize state policy from the cheap seats.
And it’s not always politicians.
Murphy said he was dining in a restaurant over the weekend when a guy deliberately walked by him without a mask. He assumed he was making a point.
“OK buddy, thank you, really appreciate you doing that,” Murphy said today, a bit sarcastically.
A few months ago, an angry group accosted Murphy in a restaurant by cursing at him. This “protest” was a bit more dignified.
State Senator Mike Testa (R-1) was unamused.
“It’s unbelievable that Governor Murphy is doubling-down on an anti-science mask mandate that the CDC says is no longer necessary,” said Testa. “With the CDC clearly stating that masks serve no public health purpose, Pennsylvania, New York and many other states have already lifted restrictions or announced plans to do so this week. Instead of following the science here in New Jersey, we have a governor who continues to restrict personal freedoms to cater to the irrational fears of a timid liberal constituency.”