TRENTON (CBS) — Face coverings are now required to be worn in New Jersey while indoors and outdoors at public places. Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Wednesday mandating the use of face coverings while in public if social distancing cannot be ensured.
Murphy says this is a step he hoped he wouldn’t have to take. But this, he says, is common sense for the common good.
In Ocean City, visitors crammed onto a crowded beach to fit in, but there was barely a mask in sight. Regardless of Murphy’s new mandate, some refuse to cover their faces while outside.
“Inside makes all the sense in the world. Outside, I think it should be up to the individual because my understanding is, there’s a difference of opinion on how effective the mask is, especially outside,” Hall Landis claimed.
The number of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey is on the rise, particularly in beach towns.
“This virus doesn’t care what political party you belong to, it doesn’t care what you may or may not think about masking up, it doesn’t care about you or your family. It frankly, just wants to kill you and move on to the next victim,” Murphy said.
If social distancing isn’t feasible, the new executive order mandates people to wear a mask when outside.
“If this is the least I can do to stop the spread in any way, it’s a simple thing to do. It’s uncomfortable, but if it’s there least we can do, it’s not that hard,” Laurelton resident Abby Graves said.
Especially on a crowded boardwalk, where one may be exposed.
“I live with my grandma right now so I’m doing my best to protect her. It’s not about me. It’s about other people too,” Ocean City resident Gina Peluso said.
For the nine million people residents of the Garden State, plus its visitors.
“How can they enforce everybody? It comes down to if you’re going to do it for one person you have to do it for everybody. You have to be fair,” Ocean City resident Bob Greenwood said.
Wildwood recently discontinued its fireworks on Fridays after large crowds began to gather without practicing social distancing and few wearing masks.
“We understand the intent. Basically, we like to tell everyone, like everyone is saying out there, please if you come to the shore or go anywhere, wear a mask wherever possible,” Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron said.
Local law enforcement will monitor compliance, particularly in crowded situations. Byron says enforcing the governor’s order will pose some challenges.
“The local police, which we’re kind of shorthanded to begin with, because the academy was closed, we don’t have as many Class 2 officers as we typically do,” Byron said. “And there’s so many other issues that we don’t want them to be mask enforcers at this point because there’s a lot of other things that need to be concentrated on as well.”
We received mixed reactions from Wildwood visitors Wednesday evening.
“You’re not protecting yourself with your mask, you’re protecting other people so if you find yourself coming in close proximity with people, have some compassion for your fellow man. Why would you potentially want to kill that person?” Bensalem resident Nick Scuderi said.
“Mandatory masks is a little over the top. I think we need to balance the masking, social distancing, using common sense,” Phoenix resident Tom Brennan said.
Murphy says he understands it will be difficult to enforce this new mandate, but says officials will be focusing on large gatherings with a lack of social distancing.
There are face-covering exceptions for individuals who are under the age of 2, eating or drinking at an outdoor dining establishment, when eating a mask would inhibit health or safety.
As of Wednesday, the state’s rate of transmission exceeds 1.0 for the first time in 10 weeks, Murphy explained earlier this week. This means for every new case of COVID-19, that case is leading to at least one other new case.
Several recent outbreaks have been directly tied to traveling to COVID-19 hotspots.
The state has expanded its travel advisory to impact 19 states across the nation, including Delaware.
CBS3’s Alecia Reid and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.