NJ Residents Not Thrilled to Mask-up But Think the New Rule is Necessary
BELMAR — Teaneck resident Judith Puentes has struggled to find anyone at the shore wearing a mask while in a public setting outdoors.
So she's in favor of Gov. Phil Murphy's latest coronavirus-related executive order, which requires that people wear face coverings while outdoors when social distancing isn't possible.
"I think it's necessary, unfortunately," Puentes said on the boardwalk. "These are the times in which we live right now, and hopefully it won't be too much longer."
During a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Murphy said requiring masks outdoors is a step he had hoped he wouldn't have to take. But, he said, there's been a "backslide in compliance" with safety protocols as the weather has gotten warmer, along with spikes in positive coronavirus cases in other states. Earlier this week, Murphy noted the state's estimated transmission rate surpassed 1.0 for the first time in 10 weeks. Scenes from crowded nightlife spots along the Jersey Shore prompted bars to make adjustments in order to limit capacity and customer interaction.
"We need to do what we can to protect everybody and not have a second wave of this," East Brunswick resident Shaheen Chinwala said of the new mask requirement. "I just think they need to enforce it."
Natalie, of Egg Harbor Township, said an outdoor bar she had visited since New Jersey lifted outdoor dining restrictions was "way too packed." So she's equipped with a mask at all times, and says she'll now wear one outdoors when separating from strangers isn't possible.
"I think it's very smart, but it is a bit of a bummer," she said.
"I feel as though this needs to happen," added Moses Rivers, of New Brunswick. "You want to be outside, wearing a mask should be a fair exchange."
Shore visitors angered by the move weren't willing to speak on the record about their reaction to Murphy's executive order. Republican lawmakers, however, wanted their opinions heard.
“This new directive, four months into the health emergency, feels arbitrary and hollow. We all would benefit from knowing more about Murphy’s justification and motivation," reads a joint statement from state Sen. James Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano. “If people are comfortable wearing masks, they should feel free to do so. What we are asking for is choice. Requiring masks without any clear rationale is troubling."
When announcing his executive order, Murphy said examples of situations during which masks should be worn outdoors include "walking down a packed boardwalk" and standing on a line that's not properly spaced out.
"Please, please, please mask up, cover up, if you step out," Murphy said. "It's common sense for the common good."