On May 24, 2021 and May 26, 2021, respectively, New Jersey Governor Murphy signed two Executive Orders (“EOs”), which will hopefully pave the way towards the reopening of New Jersey and a return to “normalcy.” New Jersey previously lifted its mask mandate for outdoor spaces, and EO 242 continues to lift mask mandates by removing masking requirements for “indoor public spaces” and lifting capacity limits for certain businesses. EO 243 goes further and ends New Jersey’s emphasis on telework and lifts mask mandates for vaccinated individuals in the office, regardless of whether that office is publicly accessible. Please see hyperlinks for copies of EO 242 and 243.
In accordance with the CDC’s guidance, EO 242 provides that fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks in “indoor public spaces,” and no longer need to social distance. The lifting of the masking and social distancing requirements does not apply to childcare centers, youth summer camps, preschool, elementary school, and secondary schools, as children under the age of 12 are not currently eligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines. EO 242 also lifts the requirement that restaurants sit patrons six feet apart and allows patrons to order at a bar and eat or drink while standing. Finally, EO 242 now allows a number of establishments to operate at full capacity, including retail establishments, health clubs, indoor pools, amusement parks, casinos, and racetracks. While EO 242 lifted regulations for a large amount of New Jersey, the lifting of the mask mandate only applies to “indoor public spaces.” Offices and other areas of employment that are not accessible to the public (and thus not included as an “indoor public space”) must still require their employees to wear masks when unable to maintain six feet of distance.
However, EO 243 clarifies the application of 242 for non-indoor public spaces and lifts this mask requirement for fully vaccinated employees. Per EO 243, it is up to the employer to ascertain whether its employees are fully vaccinated, and upon receipt of such proof can lift its mask and social distancing rules. Employers must continue to require masks for those employees who are not fully vaccinated and for those whom the employer is unable to determine their vaccination status. Further, EO 243 clarifies that private, nonpublic employers may allow visitors to enter without masks or adherence to social distancing, but are permitted to establish a policy requiring same. Finally, EO 243 also rescinds paragraphs 10 and 11 of EO 107, which required businesses to allow employees to work from home to the maximum extent possible.
Thus, between EO 242 and 243, most businesses within the State can return to unmasked operations, without requiring six feet of distance between employees, provided all employees are fully vaccinated. Further, employers can choose to have their employees return to their offices, although requirements of reasonable accommodations remain applicable.
Of course, both executive orders allow for businesses to impose stricter safety requirements, including mask and distancing requirements, on employees and customers, in their sole discretion.