New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday explained his decision to keep his indoor mask mandate in place, saying his state is “just not ready” to follow others in relaxing the requirement after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for vaccinated people.
Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper why he chose to “go against the CDC guidance” and keep his indoor mask mandate in place, despite the CDC announcing Thursday that fully vaccinated people can now ditch masks in most indoor and outdoor situations.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily against it,” the governor responded. “We’re just not ready yet. We’ve been clobbered not once but twice. We’ve lost over 26,000 people. We know the virus is more lethal indoors, and you’re asking somebody who is at the hardware store working there or in a retail or a grocery store to make the judgment on who’s vaccinated and who’s not. We’re not there yet.”
Mr. Murphy said he would “feel better” about lifting the indoor mask mandate if private businesses started requiring proof of vaccination.
“Listen, I think we were the first state in America to put in place an indoor masking requirement,” he said. “We know it’s been hugely helpful. If we can save only one more life by waiting a couple of weeks longer, I’ll sign up for that.”
Mr. Murphy said he wants to continue seeing declines in the state’s rate of transmission for COVID-19 and hospitalizations before considering lifting the mandate, and he said that could be in a matter of weeks.
“We’ve got the virus on the run at long last,” he said. “Twice before we thought we had this thing on the run and it came back and clobbered us again. I don’t want to see that again. We’re the only state in America I think who has not lurched in one respect, in other words, opened up something and then had to pull back.”
New Jersey has the highest COVID-19 death rate in the country, but infections and hospitalizations are plummeting. Earlier Monday, Mr. Murphy lifted the state’s outdoor mask mandate and travel advisories, and he announced schools will be back for full-time, in-person learning in the fall.