Friday is the day that many New Jersey residents have been waiting for, when social distancing and the wearing of masks will no longer be required in most indoor settings.

“I knew that if we all did our parts, we could make it work” said Governor Phil Murphy in announcing his executive order implementing the new rules. It was, he said, “because of the tremendous progress we’ve made over the past several weeks in particular.”

In addition to lifting the mask mandate, Murphy’s executive order lifts the requirement for maintaining six feet of social distancing in all indoor and outdoor settings and includes businesses such as restaurants, retail spaces, personal care businesses, gyms, and recreational and entertainment businesses. It also lifts the six foot distancing requirement for religious services, political activities, weddings, funerals, memorial services, and performances. Every business can continue to require social distancing, should it choose to.

Also on May 28, dance floors in bars and restaurants will be allowed to open and the requirement that patrons remain seated while ordering or eating and drinking will be lifted.

Businesses and other entities that wish to, can continue to require that customers wear masks. “We ask that you be respectful in adhering to these requirements where they do apply,” the governor added.

Masks will still be required in healthcare settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, public transportation, state offices, and worksites that are closed to the public. The executive order does not apply to child care facilities, summer camps and schools.

On June 4, the state will lift all indoor gathering limits. This includes the general 50 person gathering limit as well as the 250 person gathering limit that applies to political activities, wedding ceremonies and receptions, funerals, memorial services, performances, catered events and commercial gatherings. The thirty percent limit on large indoor venues with a fixed seating capacity of a thousand or greater will also be lifted.

Murphy defended his go-slow approach. “We did not act in a knee jerk fashion. I do not for one minute regret are taking these extra two weeks to ensure the dramatic decreases we have begun seeing… I do not regret listening to a host of medical and scientific experts, including Dr. Tony Fauci, who spoke of a need to be more cautious to prevent a backslide. If these past two weeks have pushed one more person to get vaccinated or saved one extra person from hospitalization or death, then we are all better off.”

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels