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The recent COVID-19 surge caused by the highly transmissible delta variant has some New Jersey businesses rethinking plans to bring remote workers back to offices next month. Meanwhile, there is growing concern about customer and employee pushback if New Jersey decides to issue a mask or vaccine mandate that restaurants and other indoor businesses would be expected to enforce.

NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka told NJ101.5 radio this week that some companies are delaying the return of remote workers to indoor offices, while others are struggling on whether to require masks and vaccinations, even if employees are only returning part-time under a hybrid work schedule.

“You have portions of the workforce that say I will not come back into the office until you can prove 100% vaccination,” Siekerka told NJ101.5 reporter David Matthau. “Then on the other side, you have portions of the workforce that say don’t mandate a vaccine on me because I’ll walk out.”

Meanwhile, New Jersey businesses that deal directly with the public, such as restaurants and retail stores, are increasingly concerned about the possibility of new government-ordered mask or vaccination mandates that will require them to essentially police the behavior of their customers. The cities of Philadelphia and New York City are already implementing mandates that business owners say could subject their employees to angry customers upset about new restrictions.

Starting today, the City of Philadelphia is requiring anyone entering any business or indoor space to wear a mask unless they can show proof of vaccination. Masks are also required for non-seated outdoor events attended by 1,000 or more people. Starting Sept. 1, all city workers must show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or double-mask while on the job.

New York City will be requiring all workers and customers at restaurants, gyms and indoor performance venues to show proof of at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine starting Aug 16. After an outreach and transition period, city health inspectors will start checking businesses for compliance on Sept. 13. The mayor of New York City is also requiring all municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — to get coronavirus vaccines by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing.

Siekerka said New Jersey businesses are not eager for a government-ordered mask or vaccination mandate, but it would be easier for them and their customers to accept it if it was a statewide requirement that applied to both the public and private sector.

“If there’s a mandate for state workers that comes out, if the teachers union leans in and says we want to mandate it for our teachers, the business community will be a little more hard-pressed to fight against a mandate,” Siekerka told NJ Spotlight News’ Brenda Flanagan  on Wednesday. “However, if there was a mandate put to the business community, without a mandate equally to state workers and our teachers, etc., I think that we would be posed with a challenging situation at best.”

NJBIA has consistently said that one-size-fits-all policies regarding masks and mandates are bad for business, Siekerka said today. “Businesses must be left to make the decision based on what’s right for their workforce and their customers taking into consideration their work environment, their culture and the population they serve,” Siekerka said.