NEWARK — The state's largest city isn't waiting for Gov. Phil Murphy to bring back restrictions.

Faced with rapidly rising COVID cases, Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday announced a new vaccine mandate, which will go into effect for public New Year's Eve parties and events. The mandate will then apply to all bars, restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment establishments starting Jan. 10

The announcement came on the same week that the city began requiring indoor masking at businesses.

Maplewood, Montclair, Morristown and South Orange followed suit but the state of New Jersey has no statewide mask mandate for retail or restaurants, just schools and healthcare facilities.

The state also does not have a vaccine requirement except for school staff and government workers, who must be vaccinated or face periodic testing.

Newark mayor Ras Baraka
Newark mayor Ras Baraka (City of Newark via Facebook)

“Newark’s latest three-day test positivity rate has spiked to 27.16 percent. Guided by this data, the City of Newark is taking firm and aggressive action to prevent its spread and protect our residents and workers. Newark will continue to meet the challenge of COVID-19 with determination,” Baraka said Thursday.

The mayor, who is vaccinated, also revealed this week that he had tested positive for COVID.

Several venues in Newark already were requiring vaccination proof, including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Prudential Center.

Philadelphia also will be mandating vaccination proof for dining indoors starting in January. New York this month began implementing indoor masking and vaccination requirements for anyone 5 and over at restaurants and entertainment venues.

But Murphy has thus far resisted calls to bring back stricter measures for the state, even as hospitalizations climbed past 2,000 for the first time since April. Daily death counts, however, remain at a fraction of what they were this time last year, before the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available.

Ferry Street Newark (Google Maps)
Ferry Street Newark (Google Maps)
'Newark is taking firm and aggressive action to prevent its spread and protect our residents and workers.'

Reaction to Newark vaccine mandate

Some people on social media welcomed Newark's announcement, with residents of other cities supporting it for where they live. But many others criticized the mandate as a burden on small businesses and people.

Newark vaccine card reaction

Newark vaccine requirement

Customers 5 and older must show proof of at least the first dose of a vaccine by Jan. 10 and the second dose by three weeks later at the following businesses.

— Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, including taverns, coffee shops and fast-food establishments that have seating

— Breweries, wineries, and distillery tasting rooms

— Mixed-use facilities

— Food courts

— Indoor entertainment establishments, including nightclubs, hookah bars, pool and billiard halls and cigar bars

— Concert and sporting venues

— Movie theatres

— Bowling alleys

— Indoor exercise and recreational establishments, including exercise facilities, dance, yoga, and

— Pilates studios

— Any facilities used for group fitness classes

— Indoor event and meeting establishments, including hotel common rooms, banquet halls, conference centers meeting facilities, convention centers, auditoriums

— Shared work facilities

Erin Tridle, Jordan Commarrieu
Restaurant host Joey Tyler verifies a patron's vaccination card at French restaurant Petit Trois in Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Exemptions to Newark vaccine mandate

— Houses of worship

— Grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and food service establishments providing charitable food services

— Pharmacies, medical offices, urgent care centers, or hospitals

— Hardware stores, and retail establishments where people tend to be in motion and not standing or seated in close proximity to others for long periods of time

— Private meeting spaces in residences or office buildings

— Governmental facilities; warming and cooling centers, day service facilities for homeless persons, shelters serving homeless persons or victims of domestic violence

— Election polling places

— Other facilities as exempted by the Department of Health

Jee Hye Kim

People exempt from Newark's vaccine mandate

— People entering a covered establishment for a quick and limited purpose (for example, placing an order for takeout, picking up an order, or making a delivery)

— A person entitled by law to a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief

Sergio Bichao is digital managing editor of New Jersey 101.5. You can contact him at

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