Hoboken, NJ, latest to impose strict mask mandate
More New Jersey cities are imposing their own restrictions to try and curb the spread of the omicron COVID variant.
Hoboken will now require any resident or visitor over the age of two to wear a face covering inside any public or commercial building. The order goes into effect at 6 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29.
A record number of positive COVID tests has been recorded in Hoboken over the last seven days.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in a statement, "We need to revert back to one of the tools that we know works – a face mask. This new measure will create a safer environment for our most vulnerable residents and ensure our businesses can stay open and remain adequately staffed during the winter months."
The mayor noted many private businesses had already imposed their own mask mandate.
In Paterson, Mayor André Sayegh is expected to sign an executive order requiring a mask inside all city owned and operated buildings. The mandate does not effect privately owned businesses.
Montclair and South Orange also have also mandated masks in all public indoor spaces for at least the next 30 days. City officials in both municipalities noted record numbers of positive COVID tests. South Orange Mayor Sheena Collum said on Facebook the "overwhelming majority" of cases were among those who had been fully vaccinated.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka had already imposed an indoor mask mandate, but followed that up with a new vaccine requirement. Beginning in mid-January, everyone will have to show proof of vaccination to enter bars, restaurants and most indoor venues.
Gov. Phil Murphy remains on vacation in Costa Rica with his family and is set to return on Thursday, Dec. 30. It remains unclear if he will impose a statewide mask mandate or other restrictions when he returns.
Murphy did participate in a call with the nation's other governors hosted by President Joe Biden on Monday, but gave no indications what he will do when he returns to New Jersey.
Monday's COVID metrics were a mixed bag for New Jersey. The number of new positive tests has dropped from the record highs set over the Christmas holiday, to 8,831. However, hospitalizations have continued to rise, now at 2,654.
State health officials confirmed that among those hospitalized, 46 were children under the age of 18.
White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday there has been a nationwide increase in the number of kids being admitted with COVID disease. "More hospitalizations," Fauci told Good Morning America, "Not necessarily more severe disease in kids, but many more kids requiring hospitalizations."
Later in the day, Fauci suggested it was also time to require vaccination for domestic air travel. President Biden has resisted requiring proof of COVID vaccine to fly, but Fauci's comments may signal a coming change in policy.