If you don't wear a mask when you enter a retail store in New Jersey, you could face up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, according to new proposed legislation introduced in the New Jersey state Assembly this week.

The proposed bill is making its way through the state assembly would treat entering a store without a face mask as a petty disorderly person offense. This means that penalties for not obeying the mask requirements would range up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

The proposal was introduced by democratic Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Ralph Caputo earlier this week.

New Jersey has required masks in public spaces since a mandate was signed by Governor Murphy back in April, but the exact enforcement of that hasn't been totally clear so far. The order was expanded in July to call for masks outdoors where social distancing wasn't possible. 

"Although many residents have been following the Governor’s mask mandate, those who aren’t put us all at risk. There needs to be some sort of penalty to drive home the point that this mandate is not optional," Assemblyman Caputo said in a statement.

Assemblywoman Huttle says this is a vital element of the state's road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As New Jersey continues to enter into our ‘new normal’ we must ensure that we are doing all that we can to keep our communities safe on the road back," she said. "Wearing a mask in stores is critical to keeping our business owners, their staff, and customers safe."

The measure now heads to Assembly Judiciary Committee for review. If it's ultimately passed the law would take effect immediately, and its provisions would last through the duration of coronavirus State of Emergency order which was signed by Governor Murphy back in March.

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