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Relaxing Restrictions vs. Maintaining Caution in Common Spaces Governor Murphy's Executive Orders Raise Questions for HOAs

The past month has brought a titanic shift in New Jersey’s position on how public spaces should be secured during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in more than a year, Governor Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order stating that most outdoor and indoor public spaces would no longer require mask-wearing or that individuals maintain 6 feet of distance from each other. 

While relaxing State COVID-19 restrictions is a welcome development for all of us who have endured hardships since last March, should we all simply take off our masks and throw caution to the wind? More importantly, for those entities charged with taking reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of others - including condominiums, co-ops, and homeowners associations that operate common facilities - what’s the most prudent course of action to protect unit owners, occupants and guests and avoid liability in this brave new post-COVID world?

On May 17th, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 241, the first of several Executive Orders seeking to relax COVID-19 safety protocols. The part of that order of most concern to multifamily boards and managers is Section 1, which states:

Individuals in outdoor public spaces are not required to wear masks, regardless of their ability to maintain six feet of distance from other individuals or groups, and regardless of their vaccination status….”

However, the Governor also wisely states in Section 1 of the Order that:

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