New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday face masks will now be required outdoors when social distancing is not possible in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He is also easing rules on what is considered outdoor dining amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on MSNBC's “Morning Joe," the governor said he would issue the order sometime Wednesday.
He later announced the mask mandate and posted exceptions to his order -- including young children, health concerns and eating/drinking -- on Twitter.
Masks are already required indoors in New Jersey.
"Wearing a face covering is not about politics... It's about life and death," the first-term Democrat said at his Wednesday news conference. "It's about showing others that you care about their health."
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“If you’re in your bubble with your family or sitting by yourself or doing something on your own, that’s not our focus.," he said. He added that the focus is where you can’t socially distance around strangers, such as in a slow-moving line.
“We feel pretty strongly this is the right step to take, one that I hoped we wouldn’t have to take.”
Murphy admitted, however, that the outdoor mask mandate will be hard to enforce.
The new order comes as New Jersey's COVID-19 trends head largely in the right direction, while many other states, particularly in the south and west, are seeing spikes. The rate of transmission, however, remained above 1 (1.1) on Wednesday, after having been below 1 for weeks prior.
Indoor dining remains restricted due to the virus, but on Wednesday, Murphy eased restrictions on what is considered outdoor dining.
"We’re making a change that will allow for more restaurants to offer outdoor dining," Murphy said. "We will be allowing areas with fixed roofs that have two open sides comprising over 50% of the total wall space to be considered outdoors, in light of the air flow."
As of Wednesday, New Jersey had more than 174,000 positive cases, with 13,476 confirmed fatalities. Fifty-three new deaths were announced Wednesday. Additional deaths likely stemming from COVID-19 rose on Wednesday to 1,947.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.