(The Center Square) – The New Jersey State Capitol Joint Management Commission (JMC) agreed to end most COVID-19 protocols at the statehouse in Trenton, except for a mask mandate, and state Republicans say it also needs to go.
The eight-member JMC voted Tuesday to loosen the restrictions, according to a Republican news release. Under the relaxed requirements, which take effect on Friday, everyone entering the state capitol must wear a face mask.
“While I’m pleased the commission dropped most of the rules, I’m disappointed they are clinging to the masking theater,” Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, said in a statement.
“Let me be clear: no one should be shamed for their masking choices. But I firmly believe masking should not be mandated, but left up to the individual,” Bergen added. “Besides, we’ve been safely unmasked in restaurants, shopping malls, fitness centers, and very soon, schools. What makes the statehouse particularly unsafe still?”
Last year, state Republicans wanted a judge to block a requirement that visitors to the statehouse be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or show a recent negative COVID test. The vaccination-or-test mandate will end when the new restrictions take effect.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, previously announced a statewide mask mandate in schools would end on March 7. During a media briefing last week, the governor said the discussion around masks has been politicized.
“Masks were allowed to be politicized,” Murphy said in response to a question about masks in schools. “…Whether we lift the mask mandate or not, this has been politicized for reasons that are at odds with public health, for sure, since moment one.”