Gov. Murphy explains easing NJ mask restrictions, vaccines, police reform

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NEW JERSEY — The unofficial start of summer will give New Jersey residents more than one reason to celebrate.

Mask restrictions in New Jersey are being eased just in time for the holiday weekend, which means COVID cases continue to move in the right direction. 

Gov. Phil Murphy discussed the details of his decision, continued vaccination efforts, his thoughts on vaccine passports and where he stands on a chokehold ban and ending qualified immunity for officers. 

George Floyd and police reform

On this day one year ago, George Floyd died at the hands of former officer Derek Chauvin. His death prompted police reforms across New York, but the same doesn’t hold true in New Jersey — the state legislature has not voted on the chokehold ban nor ending qualified immunity for officers

“He should be alive today. It remains a tragedy,” Gov. Murphy said. 

Murphy also said there have been a lot of steps “going in the right direction,” including revising guidelines of use of force, the use of body cameras and a deepening relationship between law enforcement and communities. 

“We’re on a journey,” he said. 

NJ eases mask restrictions

New Jersey was one of the last states of ease mask restrictions. 

When asked what the determining factors were to make the official announcement, Murphy said the state wasn’t ready to follow CDC’s masking announcement when it was released on May 13.

“We got clobbered not once, but twice,” he said.

By allowing more time, Murphy said the state was able to see the numbers continue to move in the right direction and make meaningful progress. More vaccinations were administered and the positivity rate continued to decrease even further since the CDC’s announcement on easing masks. 

“We think we’re ready to go to open safely and responsibly,” he said.

Vaccine progress

How far along is New Jersey in its vaccine distribution? Murphy said the state is as far along as most states in its vaccine distribution. 

Murphy said about 70% adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The objective is to get 70% adults fully vaccinated by the end of June, but the governor acknowledged “it won’t be easy.”

The governor also said there’s still a “long way to go” with getting communities of color vaccinated. 

100% capacity at certain venues

MetLife Stadium and Prudential Center are opening up to 100% capacity. 

Murphy said masks are not required unless the venue operator determines they want to keep mask rules.

As of Friday, the state is doing away with the 6-foot social distance rule, and a week from Friday, New Jersey is going to eliminate 30% cap on large indoor venues, according to Murphy.

Vaccine passports

What are the governor’s thoughts on vaccine passports? 

Murphy said he has mixed emotions. He’s open-minded to using it, but if the state is not where it needs to be on equity, “I don’t want to even inadvertently discriminate against big parts of our population.”

Will NJ ultimately get there? Murphy said he hopes so, but they’re not there yet. 

Masks and businesses

Although mask restrictions will be eased this week, Murphy said businesses can still enforce mask wearing in their stores and people will need to comply with those rules. 

Summer and roller coasters

Six Flags Great Adventure is unveiling their new ride, the Jersey Devil. Will Gov. Murphy be one of the first to ride it?

He said he will not commit to that. 

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