New Jersey Governor Murphy Won’t Completely Rule Out Return to Masking as New COVID Variant Spreads

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TRENTON, NJ – As COVID-19 cases statewide drop to lows not seen since last spring, Governor Phil Murphy this week warned of a new strain of omicron that appears to be affecting many who did not get the omicron virus this past December and January.

Murphy said he anticipates an increase in cases in New Jersey and would not rule out a return of a renewed mask mandate if that happens, but for now says it’s not necessary.

According to reports, the new Omicron “stealth” variant is more transmissible than the previous strain that spread this past winter but has so far come with even milder symptoms than its predecessor. That new variant now accounts for 25% of all COVID-19 positive cases.

“We are closely watching the recent rise in global COVID numbers and, given both previous trends with regard to spread and our location as an international nexus for travel and trade, we do anticipate that we will eventually see an increase in the number of cases in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “We will continue to closely monitor virus activity in the state, in particular for impacts to our health care system.”

Murphy said at this point, there is not a need to reinstate universal mask mandates, but wouldn’t definitely rule it out if case counts climb again.

“However, at this time, we do not anticipate any need to reinstate universal statewide mandated protective measures,” Murphy said. “We encourage residents to stay up to date with vaccinations and boosters, get tested when exposed or sick, and monitor the state’s COVID-19 Activity Level (CALI) Report and CDC COVID Community Levels for awareness of local COVID-19 activity and CDC masking recommendations. Those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk are encouraged to follow the guidance of their health care provider and the CDC.”

Murphy admitted that COVID-19 is not going to be eradicated and said we now need to learn to live with the virus circulating in society.

“We are not going to manage COVID to zero nor are we impervious to the virus. We expect COVID to continue to mutate and cases to continue to ebb and flow. Moving to an endemic status still means we must all take personal responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” he added.