New Mask Mandate Imposed at Big Hospital Chain in NJ
More New Jersey healthcare facilities have returned to mask mandates.
Hackensack Meridian Health is requiring all patients, visitors and staff to wear masks at Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Old Bridge Medical Center and Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead.
A message posted on the Hackensack Meridian Health website says the policy went into effect on Monday, but did not specify a reason for the mandate.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising in New Jersey, but the infection risk is listed as 'low.'
Earlier this month Shore Medical Center in Somers Point and Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May County reinstated their masking requirements.
New Jersey's largest hospital network, RWJ/Barnabas Health, urges patients and visitors to wear a mask, but compliance remains voluntary.
The RWJ/Barnabas website states: Masks are optional except when indicated on specific units or in identified areas. We will offer you a new mask for source control or may ask you to replace your own mask with a hospital-supplied mask.
A number of smaller healthcare settings, like doctors offices and medical clinics, have also started to again require masks for staff and patients.
Last mandate to go, first to return
The mask mandate for healthcare settings was among the last mandates to be lifted by Gov. Phil Murphy.
It wasn't until April of this year, three years after the start of the pandemic, that Murphy finally lifted his universal directive that required masks in all health care settings.
At the time, Murphy said he understood if people wanted to keep masking up.
"Just because it’s not mandated doesn’t mean you can’t wear a mask yourself,” he said on News12 New Jersey, "If you feel comfortable, based on your circumstances wearing one, go ahead and wear one."
Murphy's administration has taken note of the increase in COVID-19 cases as Fall arrives in New Jersey.
He is heavily promoting the newest version of the COVID vaccine, but has repeatedly said he does not see the need for a statewide mask mandate at this time.
For now, Murphy seems content to allow individual hospitals, medical facilities, school districts and private businesses to decide for themselves if a mask should be required to enter.