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Mask Mandate To Stay In Effect In Township Buildings

The Township Council is following the state government’s lead and will require masks in all public areas of township-owned buildings, beyond the removal date of the governor’s mask-wearing mandate.

Mask-wearing inside municipal offices will be up to the discretion of the person occupying that office, the Township Council decided at its May 25 meeting.

Gov. Phil Murphy on May 24 signed Executive Order 242, which removes the mask-wearing mandate indoors, as well as a number of other restrictions, as of May 28.

The EO makes several exemptions for the removal of the mask-wearing mandate, such as in health care settings and all elementary and secondary schools.

The Order also exempts “public-facing” state offices from the mask-wearing mandate removal.

It was that last exemption on which the Council members hung their hats.

Mayor Phil Kramer led the discussion, and expressed his support for requiring masks in “public-facing” areas of township municipal buildings.

“Many people do not want to be exposed to COVID and are reluctant to be inside with people who are not wearing masks when the virus is still in the environment at current levels,” he said. “When we open our doors, we need to do it for everyone. “

I” also have employees who are worried about their health,” Kramer said. “The building is open, so they need to come to work. I don’t want them to be in the position of having to choose between their job and health when it comes to being exposed to someone who is not wearing a mask and who’s vaccination status is unknown to the employee.”

“Visitors to the municipal buildings, while inside, should be required to wear a mask in public areas, while in private offices, it should be at the discretion of the office owner,” Kramer said. “There will be some who will feel they will be put upon by this rule. I ask that they make the small sacrifice of wearing a mask for the brief time they are in the building. Please give the rest of the public time to catch up to where you are.”

“I agree with the Mayor,” Township Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt (D-At Large) said. “We have to be more conservative than the CDC guidelines endorse.”

“Folks who are coming indoors to do business should probably be wearing masks because we cannot determine who has and has not been vaccinated,” she said. “I feel like we have to err on the side of caution and require masks in our municipal buildings at this point.”

Councilman Ram Anbarasan (D-At Large) said the township’s action is in line with what the state is doing.

“I think it is the sensible thing to do because the population, maybe more than 30 percent, is not vaccinated,” he said. “When the state relaxes that rule, perhaps we could, also.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) was more direct with her support.

“I think we should have a mask mandate,” she said.

Deputy Mayor James Vassanella said that the Council should readdress the mask mandate sometime in June or July.

“Hopefully things will change, hopefully for the better,” he said.

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