In Brief

Remaining COVID restrictions in Statehouse are lifted

By: - March 22, 2022 11:57 am

The Trenton Statehouse (Getty Images)

A panel tasked with managing New Jersey’s capitol has approved the sunset of the final COVID-19 restrictions in place at the Statehouse.

The State Capitol Joint Management Commission unanimously voted on a resolution Tuesday that ends a loosely enforced mask mandate and lifts occupancy restrictions imposed to halt the spread of the virus.

“We think that there is a special need for the Statehouse to be as open as possible to members of the public,” said Seth Hahn, executive director of the Assembly Majority Office and the commission’s chairman. “For those reasons, we’re trying to err on the side of fewer restrictions.”

The move comes a month after the panel suspended controversial rules that required anyone entering the Statehouse — including legislators — to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Though the more stringent rules were strictly enforced, with New Jersey State Police troopers stationed at building entrances to ensure compliance, the masking rules were often ignored by legislators and members of the public.

One provision suspended by Tuesday’s vote required guests and members of the public who refuse to mask be denied entry to the Statehouse. It’s not clear whether that policy was ever enforced.

The resolution also requires the Statehouse building manager to remove signs related to COVID-19 and hand sanitizer stations, and return furniture that had been removed to enable social distancing.

New Jersey’s COVID-19 case counts have remained low following the Omicron variant-fueled surge in December and January. The state has reported fewer than 1,000 new cases on all but seven days this month.

The commission also approved the installation of six electric vehicle charging stations and repairs to the Statehouse annex elevators. Those projects are expected to cost roughly $670,000.

Once the charging stations are installed — that is estimated to take about a year — the Statehouse garage will have capacity to charge up to 12 electric vehicles.


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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.