Governor orders people must wear masks outdoors

Wednesday Gov. Phil Murphy issues a new executive order requiring Jersey residents to wear masks outdoors in situations where it’s too crowded to safely social distance. Places like a packed boardwalk or beach. Residents had mixed opinions.

“I would imagine that people might have a hard time with it, especially in the beach areas but I don’t have a problem with it around here,” said Rockaway resident Cindy Pirrello. “I think it’s important to keep everyone safe.”

“I’m feeling very frustrated by this whole thing, and I think that until there’s a vaccine we can’t just be prisoners forever in this state. That’s how I feel,” said Rockaway resident Jim Mainardi.

Current New Jersey regulations only require masks at indoor venues, only recommending face coverings in crowds outside. At his daily briefing on Wednesday, the governor explained why he’s making outdoor masks mandatory.

“Requiring masks outdoors is a step, frankly, I had hoped we would not have to take. And, by and large, New Jerseyans have been outstanding in their compliance when masking up to go outside as it was our strong recommendation. But, unfortunately, we have been seeing a backslide in compliance as the weather has gotten warmer – and, not surprisingly, our rate of transmission has similarly crept up,” Murphy said.

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press”, Murphy called for a national mask policy.

“We’re starting to see small spikes in reinfection from folks coming back from places like Myrtle Beach, as well as in Florida, other hot spots. To me it says we need a national strategy. We’re only as strong as our weakest link right now,” he said.

Most epidemiologists say social distancing, hand hygiene and masks used together offer the best defense against spreading the virus.

“It’s our human instinct to try to move closer to people when we’re having those conversations. So 6 feet very quickly becomes 4 feet. And so if we have this as an added layer of protection, it really just helps reduce the risk. And I think there are situations where maintaining 6 feet is really difficult,” said Montclair State University professor and epidemiologist Stephanie Silvera.

The big question: how do you enforce the executive order? Do you people warning or summonses? Who decides if there’s been an infraction?

The governor’s executive order will task local law enforcement with monitoring compliance, particularly in crowded situations.

“This is admittedly going to be harder. And again, it’s where social distancing is not practical. That’s the important caveat,” Murphy said.

“He doesn’t even know how it’s going to be enforced. He’s sort of left that open-ended. ‘We hope everybody does it, otherwise,’ I guess I’m paraphrasing, ‘we’ll have to use stronger measures.’ What does that mean?” Sen. Joe Pannacchio siad.

Pennacchio criticized Murphy for continuing to mandate behaviors by executive order instead of consulting lawmakers.

“If he wants to force everybody to have masks, fine. Show me the evidence. Show me the science,” Pennacchio said. “We have a governor that for 120 days has ruled, he has not governed. We have a Legislature that’s been on the sidelines.”

There are exceptions, like people eating and drinking at outdoor restaurants, people whose health is endangered by masks, or kids under the age of two. Everyone else will have to mask up.