In March, seeing a masked face in New Jersey became normal. The coronavirus took its first steps in upturning American society as we know it when New Jersey’s Governor Murphy declared a state of emergency. By July, Murphy had signed an executive order urging people to wear masks when social distancing practices couldn’t be upheld. But this has not been enough; New Jersey is still home to people who rebel against mask usage.
“This is truly a matter of life and death which we cannot take lightly,” explained Ralph Caputo, member of the New Jersey General Assembly. “Although many residents have been following the mask mandate, those who aren’t put us all at risk.”
As of late August, nearly 16,000 people have died due to COVID-19 and over 191,000 cases have been detected in New Jersey alone. Murphy claims that he has been doing everything in his power to help New Jersey, however, he isn’t the only one promoting mask usage.
Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Ralph Caputo have proposed a new bill that adds teeth to Murphy’s executive order mandating masks. Bill A-4453 makes entering a building without a mask illegal if the building has a mask requirement. The action would be treated as a petty disorderly persons offense, requiring up to 6 months of jail time and a monetary fine of up to $1000.
“There needs to be some sort of penalty to drive home the point that the mandate isn’t optional,” said Caputo.
Vainieri Huttle claims that passing the proposed bill could mean another step towards recreating a healthy state.
“Wearing a mask is a show of respect for the health of others around you as well as the sacrifices that have been made during this difficult time,” explained Vainieri Huttle. “I believe that this legislation is an important step in ensuring that New Jersey continues on the right track towards recovery.”
The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee on July 27, but arrests have already been made. Recent reports describe conflicts that arose from a person refusing to wear a mask inside a New Jersey building, with four of them resulting in an arrest.
As of now, the bill’s future remains uncertain. In the meantime, Vainieri Huttle and Caputo continue urging all New Jersey citizens to continue wearing masks to protect themselves and others.
“One way or another, we’re all in this pandemic together, and must all do our part to prevent the spread of this virus,” said Caputo.