Gov. Phil Murphy tied the mask mandate to his administration’s support of keeping schools from returning to all-remote learning. (Getty Images)
Mask mandates for students, teachers, and other school staff will continue “for the foreseeable future,” Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday, saying the order is necessary to keep New Jersey’s schools open amid a rise in positive coronavirus cases.
Murphy’s latest directive comes as lawmakers are mulling whether to extend a series of executive orders, administration directives, and other actions Murphy has taken since March 2020, when the virus was first identified in the state.
The schools mask mandate, issued in August, is not among the orders legislators may extend. The governor said he is keeping it in place “with no joy. With no joy. Again, with no joy.”
“Keeping our schools open is critically important. Our kids learn better when they’re in their regular classrooms and our educators are more effective when they are before a classroom. Virtual learning is no replacement for in-person education,” Murphy said.
School districts around the state returned from winter break last week by moving to all-remote or partially remote learning, with many school officials saying they had so many staff members reporting illnesses they could not open fully. As of Monday, more than 700 schools were closed because of COVID, Politico New Jersey reported.
A host of Murphy’s emergency powers expire Tuesday at midnight. Murphy asked lawmakers to extend some for 90 days, and they responded by advancing a bill Thursday that would extend some of them for 45 days.
Asked what powers he would use to extend the mask mandate, Murphy said, “I don’t have a specific construct for you but we’re working very constructively with legislative leadership.”
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