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New Jersey lifts mask mandate before Memorial Day weekend 

This Memorial Day weekend will be different from the last. Starting today, Friday May 28th, fully-vaccinated people in New Jersey will no longer be required to wear a mask in most indoor settings as mask mandate lifts, Governor Murphy announces. 

This Memorial Day weekend will be different from the last as NJ lifts mask mandate and social distancing rule for fully vaccinated individuals. (Photo credit: freepik )

 New Jersey is one of the last states to lift it’s masking mandate after the CDC announced its updated guidelines for vaccinated individuals earlier this month. During the height of the pandemic, New Jersey reported the highest per-capita death rate in the U.S. This led to some hesitation from state officials when the CDC’s mask mandate was recently lifted. 

“I do not for one minute regret our taking these extra two weeks to ensure that the dramatic decreases we have begun seeing in cases and hospitalizations continue,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said during a briefing in Trenton. 

Now, the state will begin reopening today, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. As of Friday, May 28th, masks will no longer be required indoors or outdoors for fully-vaccinated individuals. However, there are some exceptions. Masks will still be required in: 

  • State offices, such as Motor Vehicle Commission agencies
  • Worksites that are closed to the public, including warehousing and manufacturing facilities
  • Health care settings, correctional facilities and homeless shelters
  • On airplanes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation
  • In transportation hubs such as airports and stations
  • Child care centers and facilities, elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools

Individual businesses also reserve the right to enforce their own policies regarding mask wearing. 

Mask mandate

Mask mandate lifts for fully-vaccinated people, however individual businesses may still enforce their own policies regarding mask-use indoors. (Food photo created by senivpetro )

For the unvaccinated, Governor Murphy strongly encourages people to continue to wear a mask in any indoor public setting and to get vaccinated when possible. 

 


In addition to lifting the mask mandate, New Jersey is lifting the requirement for maintaining six feet of social distance in indoor and outdoor settings. This means businesses, such as restaurants, can now place tables next to each other, and customers will also no longer be required to remain seated while ordering or drinking at bars, restaurants, and clubs. 

Again, businesses and entities overseeing indoor spaces may continue to require face masks for employees, customers and guests and social distancing will continue to be required in settings where masking is required.

You many be interested: How Instagram is helping Latina entrepreneurs survive the pandemic

Lastly, Governor Murphy announced that starting on June 4, all indoor gathering limits will be removed. 

“These steps, when all added together, are the clearest signs of our commitment to carefully and deliberately reopening our state after what has been a truly crushing almost 15 month period,” Governor Murphy said. 

Over the last two months, the state’s daily report of case counts, hospitalizations and deaths have all fallen considerably. These improvements came as vaccination rates rose throughout the state. As of May, about 4.8 million New Jersey residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 4.1 million are now fully vaccinated. These numbers are expected to grow in the coming weeks as we enter the summer.

summer travel 2021

Covid-19 travel safety tips and guidelines to get you to your next vacation this summer

As vaccines continue to roll out and we approach the summer months, everyone’s mind is wandering toward dreams of travel and sorely missed vacations. But is it safe to travel yet? What are the different restrictions for domestic travel vs international travel? With guidelines constantly changing and new information becoming available for vaccinated individuals, we have compiled a list of travel safety tips to help you get to your next vacation this summer. 

Covid-19 travel safety tips and guidelines for 2021 summer travel 

International travel is still riddled with hoops and hurdles as each country adopts different guidelines and many countries, such as Canada, continue to have their borders closed. If you are planning an international trip, it would be best to look into the guidelines for your specific destination. The CDC has a useful page for looking up guidelines by destination for those planning an international trip. 

However, you do not need to go far for your next get away. Domestic travel restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals have lifted many of the hurdles that prevented easy travel in the past. 

Domestic travel guidelines for fully-vaccinated individuals 

Fully vaccinated individuals or those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months can now travel domestically without getting tested or self-quarantining before or after travel unless required by their specific destination. 

Fully vaccinated people should still follow the CDC’s general travel guidelines which include: 

  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth when in public.
  • Avoiding crowds and staying at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
  • Washing your hands often or using hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).

You might be interested: Everything you need to know about your COVID-19 vaccine card

CDC, domestic travel, covid-19 travel safety guidelines, summer travel 2021

Domestic travel guidelines for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. (Image source: cdc.gov)

Domestic travel guidelines for unvaccinated individuals 

Unvaccinated individuals at this time are still required to follow all travel safety measures, including getting tested before and after traveling or self quarantining for 10 days. 

Because traveling increases the risk of exposure to the virus, unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel. However, if you choose to travel domestically and are still unvaccinated, following these guidelines will help minimize your risk of exposure. 

When traveling, unvaccinated people should: 

  • Get tested or self-quarantine before and after traveling
  • Wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth.  Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in areas of transportation such as airports and stations.
  • Avoid crowds by staying 6 feet /2 meters apart 
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often or use hand sanitizer 

Further planning resources 

As much as we would love to be back to “normal” in time for summer vacations in 2021, the reality is we still must take proper precautions and follow all Covid-19 travel safety guidelines. 

For additional planning resources the CDC offers many detailed guidelines such as their Travel Planner which allows you to look up any domestic travel destination. For travel safety  recommendations such as best transportation methods and accommodations see the CDC’s Safer Travel Ideas.

CDC releases new guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals

The CDC has released new guidelines and recommendations for fully vaccinated people. The new CDC guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals can safely visit other vaccinated people and small groups of unvaccinated people in some circumstances. 

Covid-19 vaccine,

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

“Fully vaccinated” is defined by the CDC as those who are two weeks past their second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines or two weeks past a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC will continue to update its guidance as more information becomes available though currently there is growing evidence that suggests people who are vaccinated do not spread Covid-19. However, scientists are still trying to understand how long vaccine protection lasts.

“The level of precautions taken should be determined by the characteristics of the unvaccinated people, who remain unprotected against Covid-19,” the guidelines state.

The new CDC guidelines state fully vaccinated people can:

  • Visit other vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing
  • Visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or physical distancing, if the unvaccinated people are at low risk for severe disease.
  • Skip quarantine and testing if exposed to someone who has Covid-19 but are asymptomatic, but should monitor for symptoms for 14 days
CDC guidelines

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

This means that vaccinated grandparents may finally feel comfortable visiting their unvaccinated grandchildren, especially if they’re local, and as long as none of the unvaccinated people in that household are at risk for severe Covid-19.

And two fully vaccinated individuals, such as you and a friend, may now finally have dinner together.

However, there are still some precautions that fully vaccinated people must take in certain scenarios. CDC guidelines state fully vaccinated people must:

  • Wear a mask and keep good physical distance around the unvaccinated who are at increased risk for severe Covid-19, or if the unvaccinated person has a household member who is at higher risk
  • Wear masks and physically distance when visiting unvaccinated people who are from multiple households.

You might be interested: ‘It’s Up To You’ Campaign to Educate Millions of Americans about COVID-19 Vaccines

Additionally, fully vaccinated people should continue basic safety precautions, including: wearing a well-fitted mask and keeping physical distance in public; avoiding medium- and large-sized crowds; avoiding poorly ventilated public spaces; washing hands frequently; and getting tested for Covid-19 if they feel sick.

source: https://unsplash.com/@unitednations

“There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection, and therefore potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others,” said Tami Skoff, CDC epidemiologist on the Clinical Guidelines Team of the Vaccine Task Force.

Still, it is important that vaccinated individuals continue to practice safety precautions and distancing around vulnerable individuals such as older adults, pregnant women, and immuno-compromised individuals. The guidelines also discourage vaccinated individuals from gathering with more than one unvaccinated household. 

“According to the CDC recommendations, if unvaccinated persons from more than one household are participating in a visit, then these visits should continue to happen outside and everyone regardless of vaccination status should be physically distanced and wearing well-fitted masks,” said Skoff.

Additionally, even fully vaccinated people need to be careful when traveling, said Dr. Cynthia Ogden of CDC’s Covid emergency response team, and the CDC notes that its travel recommendations have not changed. 

“While we work to vaccinate more people, preventive measures such as pre- and post-travel testing and post-travel self quarantine, along with wearing well-fitted masks, will help us prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Ogden said.

“No vaccine is perfect. A small number of people could still get Covid-19 after getting fully vaccinated and they could spread the virus to unvaccinated people. We will be closely watching the trends in cases over the next month,” she said. “Until more is known and vaccine coverage increases, some preventive measures will continue to be necessary for all people, regardless of vaccination status.”

disproportionately hospitalized

Blacks, Latinxs, Native Americans hospitalized 4 times due to COVID-19 reflect health disparities

We are unfortunately now entering another phase of quarantining as many states begin to shut down again amid COVID-19 infection spike. And once again data shows that Black, Latinx, and Native American people are being  impacted the hardest by the virus. New data released by the CDC has revealed that since September, Black, Latino, and Native American people are being disproportionately hospitalized at about 4 times the rate of others. 

disproportionately hospitalized

Photo by Adhy Savala on Unsplash

People of color face disproportionate hospitalization rates

From March 1 to November 7, there have been 70,825 hospitalizations according to CDC data. White and non-Hispanic Black people represent the highest number of those hospitalizations, however racial and ethnic groups have still been disproportionately impacted. 

For Hispanic and Latinos, the rate of hospitalization is approximately 4.2 times the rate of non-Hispanic White persons as of November 7.

The same is true for Native American and non-Hispanic Black people, who have been hospitalized about 4.1 and 3.9 times the rate of non-Hispanic White persons.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

These findings are consistent with other data and reports that have revealed the racial and enthic health disparities nonwhite Americans have faced during this pandemic. 

For months, health officials have sounded the alarm about this trend. Speaking with CNN, director the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, Dr. Lisa Cooper, said, “We’ve learned a lot about how to treat this disease as well as more about how to prevent it with wearing masks and social distancing. The problem is that for people who still are having challenges with access to health care it doesn’t mean things are getting better for them.” 

Public health experts are now saying that significant change won’t happen until the compounding factors and health disparities that put these racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage are addressed. 

Health disparities and economic inequities increase the risk of exposure

Discrimination in social systems such as health care disproportionately impacts the lives of Hispanic, Black, and Native American people. Many are often uninsured and lack access to health care services. Others distrust the healthcare system after a history of racial discrimination. People of color are also at greater risk of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease which can make reactions to COVID-19 more severe. 

Additionally, people of color are more likely to have jobs that risk exposure to the virus in areas such as health care, food production, and public transportation. Economic inequities also mean that more people of color are likely to stay at these risky jobs out of financial necessity. 

“These are real situations that people have to deal with that impact the possibility that people feel like they don’t have a choice in terms of being able to stay home even if they have symptoms that could be in fact Covid-19 symptoms,” said Jarvis Chen, a social epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

CDC data is a wake-up call for families and officials

These statistics showing that Black and Latinos are at an increased risk of infection, has now influenced many families to take action. 

In an article with CNN, Irene Skinner of Jefferson County, Alabama and mother of five said, “I don’t want to take a chance and put myself at risk, nor my kids, nor my mother.” 

Her county has had more than 26,000 positive COVID-19 cases and 27% of them involved Black people. Additionally more than 400 have died of the virus in Jefferson Country, half of which were Black according to local data

Irene’s five daughters now attend school virtually after high school principal, Van Phillips, reached out to families to explain how COVID-19 disproportionately is impacting people of color. 

The school now has the highest percentage of virtual students. 

“There are just some things that we have to do to save our lives,” said Phillips. 

The CDC’s latest data on the health disparities facing people of color should be a wake-up call to health and government officials to provide resources such as distribution of personal protective equipment, sensible pay policies, and the potential distribution of a vaccine. 

“The demographics tell part of the story but they should really direct us to think about how we target populations that will benefit the most in terms of protecting them,” said Chen.