NEWARK — An executive order issued Thursday by Mayor Ras Baraka extends the indoor mask mandate in New Jersey's most populous city through the end of February, but does away with a COVID-19 vaccine requirement to enter certain public indoor spaces.

Effective immediately, proof of vaccination will no longer be needed at establishments in Newark that were included in a previous executive order put forth by Baraka in early February, including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues, exercise facilities, business meeting rooms, and public gathering spaces within office buildings.

However, in the new order, events with 250 or more people must have all attendees provide proof either of COVID vaccination or a negative test in the previous 48 hours.

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In a release, Baraka cited Newark's "tremendous progress" amid the decline in the omicron variant, reporting that the city's three-day rolling average test positivity rate as of Thursday was 2.5%.

Baraka reinstated indoor masking on Dec. 21, as cases and hospitalizations rose, and later contracted COVID himself.

"We have not been here in a long time," he said Thursday. "However, we are not at the end of the pandemic."

The mayor urged residents to continue wearing masks, and for those who had not yet been vaccinated to do so.

Newark Public Schools previously announced that students and staff would continue to be required to mask up even after the statewide school mandate expires March 7.

The new executive order will be re-evaluated on Feb. 28.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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