TRENTON, NJ — Face coverings are now required in outdoor public spaces when social distancing is not practicable, Gov. Phil Murphy announced during his COVID-19 press conference in Trenton on Wednesday. 

Exceptions will be made for individuals under age two, people who are eating/drinking at an outdoor dining establishment and when wearing a mask would inhibit health or safety.

"Requiring masks outdoors is a step I had hoped we would not have to take," said Murphy; "By and large, New Jerseyans have been outstanding in their compliance; but unfortunately, we’ve been seeing a backslide in compliance in New Jersey and across our nation.

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"It’s about being sick or healthy. It's about life and death. It's about showing others that you care about their health. It's about showing your community what side you’re on in the fight against COVID-19."

The governor added that coronavirus doesn’t care what political party you belong to, doesn’t care what you may think about masking up, and doesn’t care about you or your family.

"[COVID-19] just wants to kill you and move on to the next victim," he said. "It does care if you wear a mask. Period, full stop. Remember, there is no vaccine. There is no cure. There is no proven therapeutic. There is only social distancing and masking. That’s it."

When asked if the outdoor mask rule applies to landscapers, lifeguards, painters and others who work outside, Murphy reiterated that the "focus is gatherings with lack of social distancing."

"Part of the reason we had not gone to outdoor masks is that it is, admittedly, hard to enforce," he said. "It is [required] where social distancing is not practical...We feel very strongly we are taking the right step. It's the right thing to do."

Murphy also assured that he consulted with health experts prior to issuing the executive order.

GOvernor Expands Outdoor Dining Capabilities for Restaurants

During Wednesday's press conference, Murphy announced a change that will allow for more restaurants to offer outdoor dining.

"We will be allowing areas with fixed roofs that have two open sides comprising over 50 percent of the total wall space to be considered outdoors, in light of the air flow," said Murphy, adding that restaurants will still be able to serve socially distanced customers under tents and other temporary shelters as well.

In response to a reporter's inquiry about Assemblyman Jon Bramnick's proposed bill that would reimburse restaurants for expenses paid in anticipation of operating indoor dining at 25 percent capacity over the holiday weekend, the governor stated that Bramnick is a friend but that he wasn't sure where the money would come from.

Murphy Addresses Issue with Budget Gaps

The governor also reiterated on Monday the need to secure funding in order to protect against "an imminent fiscal meltdown" by allowing the state to go to the bond markets for an emergency infusion of cash to keep the state afloat.

"We cannot simply cut our way out of the budgetary hole we will fall into," Murphy said of anticipated budget gaps. "I’ve already offered painful cuts and negotiated hundreds of millions of dollars in savings with our labor partners. This is a multi-billion-dollar hole."

According to the governor, the services that could be negatively impacted by budget shortfalls are: law enforcement, public education, public health workers, property tax relief for the middle class and tuition assistance.

"All of it and more on the chopping block, and likely gone if bonding authority is not passed," said Murphy.

COVID-19 Case Update for State of New Jersey

As of Monday, the latest state health figures indicated 935 patients in hospitals with 175 patients in either critical or intensive care and 142 ventilators in use. The governor reported an additional confirmed 53 deaths attributed to COVID-19 as well, raising the confirmed statewide total to 13,476 lives lost. 

"We need to remain vigilant," said Murphy. "The point of our work isn’t that we want our hospitals to be ready for more patients. The point of our work is to keep people out of the hospital entirely. Do your part—wear a mask.

"We have to have both a lower spot positivity rate and an Rt below 1. This is not either-or; that’s why we’re taking today’s step to require everyone wear masks when outside."

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