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RED BANK: MASKS ‘STRONGLY’ URGED

red-bank-borough-hall-101621-500x375-7063496Public meetings at borough hall will go remote again, and visitors and employees will be required to wear masks. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_02-220x137-6360205Red Bank issued a declaration Friday evening “strongly urging” mask-wearing in stores and restaurants to minimize transmission of the resurgent COVID-19 virus.

Mask-wearing in publicly owned buildings will be mandated.

red-bank-mask-declaration-011422-134x220-2819886The actions, announced shortly before 5 p.m., fall short of a mandate mirroring one issued a week ago by Asbury Park, which requires masks in all indoor public settings, including government facilities, restaurants, bars, gyms and places of worship.

On Wednesday, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna suggested the borough would follow Asbury Park’s lead. Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and New Brunswick also have adopted mask mandates in recent weeks, as have smaller municipalities, including Morristown and Montclair.

Instead, Red Bank’s declaration (at right; click to enlarge), signed by Emergency Management Coordinator Tommy Welsh, cited a need to mitigate the spread of the Omicron variant “without negatively impacting businesses and residents in their daily lives.”

A separate press release announced that in all borough-owned facilities, visitors and employees must wear a proper mask or face covering, “except under very limited circumstances where prolonged social distancing is possible.”

Meetings of boards and commissions will be held virtually. While the borough council has not met indoors in person since March, 2020, the planning board and zoning board, which are autonomous, and the Historic Preservation Commission resumed in-person meetings in the council chamber over the summer. For its first two meetings, the newly empaneled Charter Study Commission also met in person before switching to Zoom this month.

All will now meet via Zoom until further notice.

The actions were taken “in order to protect the health and well-being of our residents, visitors and employees and to do our part locally in supporting our hospitals and health care workers,” the press release said.

New COVID-19 infection totals have been rising at rates seen early in the pandemic, and while the omicron variant of the virus is significantly less lethal and than earlier variants, it is landing record numbers of patients in hospitals.

Since December 2, Red Bank’s cumulative infection total since the pandemic began has soared by 38 percent, to 2,735 cases as of Thursday, according to Monmouth County government.

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