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SPECIAL ALERT: Dare You Ask – What About the Mask?

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by Nan Gallagher, Esq.

With May 28, 2021 swiftly approaching, New Jersey has taken a big leap in the direction of making people feel like the COVID19 pandemic is a thing of the past.  Vis-à-vis Executive Order 242, Governor Murphy has lifted the mask and social distancing mandates effective May 28th and has implemented more relaxed standards with respect to indoor gathering capacity limits. 

Effective May 28th, individuals in indoor public spaces are not required to wear masks, regardless of their ability to maintain six feet of distance from other individuals or groups. In accordance with CDC recommendations, individuals who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Paragraph 4 of Executive Order No. 155 (2020), Paragraph 1 of Executive Order No. 192 (2020), Paragraph 11 of Executive Order No. 239 (2021), and Paragraph 5 of Executive Order No. 241 (2021) are hereby superseded to the extent that they conflict with the provisions of this Order. Employers and entities overseeing public spaces in settings where masking is no longer required pursuant to the provisions of the Paragraph are permitted to impose stricter requirements regarding mask-wearing in indoor settings for employees, customers, guests, and other individuals, where otherwise consistent with federal and State law. Employers and entities overseeing public spaces shall not restrict individuals from wearing masks in those settings and shall not in any way penalize or retaliate against individuals who elect to wear a mask.

The State has decided that, though unvaccinated individuals, in accordance with CDC recommendations, should continue wearing masks and social distancing, without knowing an individual’s vaccination status it is not practicable to continue mandating such practices for a portion of the population. 

Worth mentioning … First, due to the variability in community-based infection as well as vaccination rates, Executive Order 242 provides that counties and municipalities can remain in control of promulgating stricter rules on the aforesaid subjects to promote the overall health and well-being of local citizens within geographic parameters.  Second and most importantly for our clientele, mask mandates remain in effect in healthcare settings.  Meaning, that masks should still be worn and required in the medical office environment, by staff and by patients

Below is a summary of the anticipated changes:

The following changes will go into effect on Friday, May 28:

  • Lifting the mask mandate in indoor public spaces.
  • Businesses and entities overseeing indoor spaces will continue to have the ability to require masking for employees, customers, and/or guests. 
    • Per CDC guidance, masks will continue to be required in health care settings, including long-term care facilities and office-based settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation, as well as transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
    • Additionally, also per CDC guidance, child care centers and facilities, youth summer camps, and public, private, and parochial preschool program premises and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, are not affected by this announcement and continue to be governed by existing requirements. 
    • Indoor worksites that are not open to the public remain governed by existing health and safety protocols that employers must follow.
    • Masks will continue to be required in public-facing state offices, such as Motor Vehicle Commission agencies.
  • Lifting the six-foot social distancing requirement
  • The requirement will be lifted in businesses, including retail stores, personal care services, gyms, recreational and entertainment businesses, and casinos, and indoor gatherings, including religious services, political activities, weddings, funerals, memorial services, commercial gatherings, catered events, sports competitions, and performances.
    • Businesses and entities overseeing indoor spaces can continue to require social distancing should they choose.
  • Lifting prohibition on dance floors at bars and restaurants. The prohibition on ordering and eating/drinking while standing at bars and restaurants will also be lifted.

The following changes will go into effect Friday, June 4:

  • Removing the general indoor gathering limit, which is currently at 50 people.
  • Removing the indoor gathering limit for political gatherings, weddings, funerals, memorial services, performances, and other catered and commercial events, which is currently at 250 people.
  • Removing 30 percent capacity limitation for indoor large venues with a fixed-seating capacity over 1,000.

At The Nan Gallagher Law Group, we are here to provide guidance on every step of your journey. Call us at 973.998.8494 and let us help you in situations that take you out of your comfort zone and those that are part of your everyday operations.

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