No-mask Morristown and how it may affect New Jersey


Thursday, Jan. 20, marked the end of Morristown’s town-wide mask mandate. The news comes from an Executive Order signed by Mayor Tim Dougherty, who had placed the mandate into effect a month prior.

Dougherty’s latest announcement encouraged public businesses and venues to continue the encouragement of face coverings, but if the order is any indication, Morristown appears to be stepping back the severity of its COVID protocol.

The recent surge in the virus’s Omicron variant led to another spike in new cases, but with those numbers subsiding, other communities might follow suit. The number of new cases in Morris County (home of Morristown) has been steadily declining by a rate of over 100 per day since the mandate was removed, but more populated areas, such as Bergen County, have still suffered a reported 21,000 new cases in the last two weeks.

These statistics beg the question of whether the example Morristown seems to be setting, will benefit the citizens of New Jersey, or if it will ultimately lead to another spike.

“I think [Morristown’s decision] is a big step because COVID is still a huge thing and even though it’s died down, it’s still spreading,” said Hills freshman Gail Gluck.

The objective data tells the story of a brief influx of cases before calming down again, with the latter likely a motivator in Mayor Dougherty’s choice.

“If you look at the numbers, they’re starting to come down,” said Vice Principal Mrs. Schwartzman. “People looked at that mandate based on those numbers and it was a conscious decision based on that.”

Regardless, safety has been the top priority of many for the last two years, and even if the data suggests things are improving, “it’s better to be cautious than to back up. It’s a slippery slope,” according to World Language teacher Mrs. Garcia.

Places of business still having the choice to require face coverings is a key attribute of the mandate’s removal.

When asked how they would handle this situation if they were a business owner in Morristown, the interviewees had very similar ideas.

“Personally, yeah,” stated Gail, “I don’t want my business to struggle because one person came in with COVID.”

In agreement, Mrs. Garcia stated that she too would require face masks and that she “would provide them too.”

On a more personal level, when asked if they would feel comfortable living in Morristown given the lifted mandate, their responses had been very alike in the sense that it is entirely someone’s choice to wear a mask or not and the repercussions are no one’s fault but theirs.

Gail stated that “even though the mask mandate is lifted, it doesn’t require the masks to be off. It’s still [her] choice whether or not to keep it on.”

“I choose if I want to wear a mask so it’s entirely on me…if they opt to lift the mandate, you can only control your own decisions.” Mrs. Schwartzman stated nonchalantly.

As some towns in New Jersey begin removing mandates, others may follow, so staying up-to-date on where these removals are happening is key to being well-informed. It may take a while before all the dominoes fall, with Mrs. Garcia having said that she doesn’t “think [Morristown’s decision] will affect NJ until the governor removes the statewide mandate.”

Regardless, COVID looks to be staying long-term, a survey from showing that 89% of scientists believe it is likely to become endemic. These predictions put a damper on those wanting to leave it behind forever, but as far as mask mandates go, the future is optimistic.

“We can’t wear masks forever,” said Mrs. Schwartzman, “and I’m hoping we get to a point where we don’t have to wear them anymore.”

PC: VideoHive