With a sweeping new mask mandate requiring face coverings on all public transit, planes and in federal buildings, clashes over masking up are inevitable.
Only, in New Jersey, two separate incidents saw patrons penalized not for refusing to wear face coverings, but for the opposite.
And a gym-goer was turned away from his local Planet Fitness in Union for wearing a surgical mask instead of a cloth one, according to ABC7 New York.
The Joseph brothers planned on boarding an 11 a.m. flight to Florida on Jan. 23 when United employees stopped them. They tried to explain that the $85 Narwall masks include a high-efficiency filter and are specially designed for high-risk situations but were kicked off the flight instead.
“Is it goofy? Absolutely. Is it something you want to be seen in public? Not exactly,” Rob Joseph, a Mahwah native, said of the masks modeled after a snorkeling headset, according to NorthJersey.com. “But to have that peace of mind for me and my family, I’m willing to take some stares to get down there safely.”
A United spokesperson told NJ Advance Media the Narwall masks violated its mask policy.
“We do not accept that particular mask as it could potentially create certain impediments in emergency scenarios, such as preventing clear communication between customers and crew-members,” the spokesperson said.
Over in Union, no fancy headgear was involved. The gym dispute was simply over cloth masks versus surgical masks, both ubiquitous across the state.
Jordan Binenstock told ABC7 he was turned away at the door for wearing a surgical mask, the same type he’s seen Gov. Phil Murphy wear at his press briefings.
“It’s so plainly stupid, if you don’t mind me saying this,” Binenstock said, according to ABC7. “It just makes no sense. The whole time, it’s made no sense.”
Unlike United, which is standing by its stance, Planet Fitness attempted a mea culpa.
“The safety and wellbeing of our staff and members continues to be our number one priority,” reads a Planet Fitness statement sent to NJ Advance Media. “We can confirm that members and guests are allowed to wear disposable surgical masks at our New Jersey clubs, in accordance with local and state guidelines.”
The club was abiding by state guidelines that specified cloth masks, which have since been updated to include the use of surgical masks, the statement reads.
Murphy’s Executive Order from August reopening gyms does “require workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings while in the indoor portion of the premises.”
However, further down, the same order also includes a stipulation that “nothing in the stated policy should prevent workers or customers from wearing a surgical-grade mask or other more protective face covering if the individual is already in possession of such equipment.”
Regardless, the club will be allowing surgical masks in the future.
“Local club management will be reaching out to Mr. Binenstock to apologize for the misunderstanding and we hope to welcome him back to Planet Fitness as a member,” the company said.
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