Newark extends mask mandate but eases proof-of-vax rule

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka issued an executive order on Thursday relaxing the city's proof of vaccination requirement for businesses including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, and other fitness facilities. Newark will still require proof of either vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for events and gatherings of 250 people or more. 

And the mayor said he has extended the mandatory mask-wearing requirement for all indoor public facilities through at least Feb. 28. Baraka said if the infections continue to fall, he will rescind most of the orders.  

"The data shows that we are making tremendous progress. Our three-day rolling average for the City of Newark is at 2.5%. We have not been here in a long time," Baraka said in a statement. "However, we are not at the end of the pandemic, therefore we need to remain vigilant to stay on this path of progress. Continue wearing your masks and get vaccinated, as another form of protection."

Also, the Archdiocese of Newark announced it will lift the mask mandate for its schools starting on March 7, which is the date Gov. Phil Murphy will lift the statewide mask mandate for schools. The archdiocese said mask-wearing in schools will be optional, so students can continue to wear them if they want to.

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RELATED: States ease mask mandates but CDC holds firm on guidance

"The archdiocese will continue to monitor circumstances and may require masks of all if conditions change, such as if there is an increase in COVID-19 cases within the school or local community, or a new statewide mandate," the archdiocese said in a statement. "The Archdiocese of Newark joins Pope Francis in urging everyone who is eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as an act of love for all people, especially the most vulnerable." 

The Archdiocese of Newark oversees 74 Catholic schools in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union counties. 

Public schools in Newark will actually keep the mask mandate until at least April 22, which is the end of spring break. Newark Superintendent Roger Leon said the health and safety of students and staff remain a top priority.

The CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission rates, which is most of the United States. 

In fact, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top authority on infectious diseases, said kids should continue wearing masks in school for now.

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