NJ governor signs executive order requiring masks in outdoor public spaces when social distancing is not possible

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Wednesday signed an executive order that requires people to wear face coverings in outdoor public spaces when it is not possible to keep a six-foot distance from others.

The order excludes immediate family members, caretakers, household members, romantic partners, and children under two. The only exceptions are when wearing a mask would hurt the person’s health, and situations where people cannot feasibly wear a face covering, such as when eating or drinking in outdoor dining areas. The order takes effect immediately.

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, face coverings were already required to be worn at indoor spaces that are accessible to members of the public such as retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses, areas of government buildings open to the public, and buses, trains, and transit stations.

“As I’ve said before, we know this virus is a lot less lethal outdoors than indoors, but that does not mean it is not lethal,” Murphy said. “The hotspots we’re seeing across the nation and certain worrisome transmission trends in New Jersey require us to do more. In the absence of a national strategy on face coverings, we’re taking this step to ensure that we can continue on our road back as one New Jersey family.”

Situations when wearing a face covering would inhibit a person’s health include when a person is engaging in intense aerobic or anaerobic activities, when a person is in the water, and in other situations where the presence of a mask would pose a risk to the person’s safety. 

Indoor commercial spaces that are not open to members of the public, such as office buildings, must have policies that, at a minimum, require people to wear face coverings when in prolonged proximity to others. Child care centers, other child care facilities, and youth summer camps are governed by another order.

The order also clarifies what constitutes an outdoor dining area. Outdoor dining areas must either have no roof or cover, or have a fixed roof or temporary or seasonal awning or cover with at least two open sides that comprise more than 50 percent of the total wall space if the space were fully enclosed.

The order also clarifies that practices and competitions for sports defined as low risk by in the New Jersey Department of Health’s guidance for sports activities are permitted in both outdoor and indoor settings. No-contact practices for sports defined as high or medium risk are permitted to resume in outdoor and indoor settings. Contact practices and competitions for sports defined as medium risk are permitted to resume in outdoor settings only. Contact practices and competitions for sports defined as high risk remain prohibited in both indoor and outdoor settings.