MIDDLETOWN, NJ - In what has been one of the more controversial aspects of the now receding pandemic that also fell along political lines, protesters gathered in Middletown to decry the forced use of face masks moving forward. The issue is particularly heated in relation to children who remain at extremely minimal risk of COVID-19 and are forced to wear masks inside and outside when they are at school.

Approximately 150 gathered and discussed the issue with protest and chants of 'No More Masks' directed to Middletown resident and current New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy.

Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger and running mate Vicky Flynn were there and publicly supported mask removal:

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Supporters of Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Jack Ciattarelli were in attendance as well as Phil Rizzo, who attended with his running mate Serena DiMaso. All are running in the June 8th Primary.

The Centers for Disease Control has released guidance that you can remove your mask if you are vaccinated. However, Murphy has not agreed to do that yet in New Jersey. Many retailers are already removing the requirement with new masking guidelines are coming out of retailers only one day after the CDC report.

Trader Joe's, Walmart, Sam's Club and Costco confirmed updates to mask requirements, allowing for mask-free shopping except where required by state or local mandate. In some cases, vaccinated store employees can also go to work without a mask.

Apple, Target, CVS and Walgreens, are reported to still be looking into it. Starbucks updated its policy for Monday and makes masks "optional for vaccinated customers beginning Monday, May 17, unless local regulations require them by law."

That is the problem for these protesters. In an interview, Assembly candidates Gerry Scharfenberger and Vicky Flynn called for change and an elimination of the mask mandate in New Jersey. Flynn, the President of the Holmdel Board of Education, fought to open the local school system earlier than most public schools in New Jersey. They opened on December 14th to full week in person learning.

The Middletown Schools are also open full time for in person education for local students and were at the event as well. All called for removal of masks. Members of the Middletown Board of Education were there as well including Vice-President Frank Capone, Jacqueline Tobacco and Barry Heffernan. 

The Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners also urged Murphy to adopt the CDC guidance.

“It is time for New Jersey to begin preparing for post pandemic life which includes following the science and adopting the updated CDC guidelines for those who have been vaccinated,” said Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone. “As more people choose to get vaccinated, the CDC has updated their guidelines and it is time for New Jersey to do the same.”

“The guidance from the CDC is an encouraging sign that we are closing in on the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we suggest people take precautions as they see fit, it is time to lift this mandate from the State,” said Commissioner Deputy Director Susan M. Kiley. “If you are interested in getting vaccinated, the County has resources to help you do so including walk-up appointments at our Brookdale Community College vaccine site on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.”