New Jersey Man Driving in N95 Mask Passes out, Crashes Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

A New Jersey man driving while wearing an N95 face mask passed out behind the wheel and crashed into a pole Thursday. The Lincoln Park Police Department warned in a Facebook post that wearing a face mask for too long could be dangerous and they are not necessary to wear while driving. Earlier this month, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered residents to wear face masks when going out in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, Lincoln Park police shared pictures of the driver's red car, with its front crashed inwards, and a damaged telephone pole. In the accompanying caption, the department said they believe the crash happened after the driver wore an N96 mask for "several hours" and passed out behind the wheel "due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake." They reminded drivers that the masks should be worn in public, but "are not necessary outdoors when social distancing can be maintained, and especially not necessary when driving a vehicle with no additional occupants."

The post quickly went viral, racking up more than 2,400 shares and over 400 comments. As a result, the police department added more information, clarifying that New Jersey residents "should absolutely" follow Murphy's orders. "As it relates to this specific incident, we reiterate that police officers are not physicians and do not know the medical history of every person we encounter," the department noted. "We conduct accident scene investigations using training, experience and observations at the scene to determine a cause."

"It was stated in the original post that we 'believed' the excessive wearing of an N95 mask was a contributing factor to this accident," the department explained. "While we don't know this with 100% certainty, we do know that the driver had been wearing an N95 mask inside the vehicle for several hours and ultimately passed out while operating the vehicle."

Officers found no evidence that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The department added it was possible that the driver may have passed out due to another medical condition and they did not intent to "cause public alarm" or suggest wearing the masks are unsafe. "The original point of the post was to state that in most cases, the wearing of this type of mask while operating a vehicle with no other occupants is unnecessary," the department concluded.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Americans start wearing facemasks when out in public earlier this month. A few days later, Murphy ordered Garden State residents to start wearing facemasks in public, reports NJ.com. All customers and workers over 2-years-old are required to wear facemasks in stores unless wearing a facemask inhibits a person's health. Workers are also must wear gloves, provided by their employer.

New Jersey is among the hardest-hit starts in the country. On Friday afternoon, officials said there are at least 102,196 positive coronavirus cases in the state and 5,617 deaths. During his daily press briefing, Murphy said the number of deaths is stabilizing and "tens of thousands of New Jerseyans" who previously tested positive have beaten COVID-19, reports NJ.com. The total number of cases includes all positive tests and officials are not subtracting the number of residents who have recovered yet.