Bergen says it is time to “free the faces” at the statehouse

Bergen says it is time to “free the faces” at the statehouse

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Brian Bergen said he is disappointed that the mask mandate will remain in effect at the statehouse.

At its Tuesday meeting, the eight-member State Capitol Joint Management Commission dropped all Covid-19 mitigation measures, save masking. Everyone entering the statehouse must continue to wear a cloth face covering in public areas or be denied entry.

The updated rules take effect Feb. 25.

“The Republican conference stood firm against these discriminatory and illogical policies when they were adopted late last year by the Democrat-controlled commission,” Bergen (R-Morris) said. “While I’m pleased the commission dropped most of the rules, I’m disappointed they are clinging to the masking theater. Let’s free our faces! Personally, I miss seeing Speaker Coughlin’s smile.”

Even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend indoor masking for anyone ages 2 and older, most states that had mask mandates have dropped or are in the process of dropping them, even in schools. Gov. Phil Murphy announced Feb. 7, 2022 that school districts would be permitted to drop masking in early March.

While masks inside the statehouse have been required since summer 2020, the commission did not require proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 tests to enter the building until December 2021. Republicans pushed back, arguing that the policy discriminated against the unvaccinated since vaccinated persons could still catch and spread the virus. Democrats eventually capitulated and required all legislators, employees and visitors to provide a negative test to enter the Assembly and Senate chambers. Many Republican legislators, including Bergen, also chose to go maskless inside the statehouse.

“Let me be clear: no one should be shamed for their masking choices. But I firmly believe masking should not be mandated, but left up to the individual,” Bergen added. “Besides, we’ve been safely unmasked in restaurants, shopping malls, fitness centers, and very soon, schools. What makes the statehouse particularly unsafe still?”