Gov. Murphy visits a pre-K classroom at Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center in Palisades Park on September 16, 2021. (Courtesy of Josue Lora | NJ Governor’s Office)
Gov. Phil Murphy is not lifting his mask mandate for schools early, despite new guidance from the federal government that says students in places like New Jersey may not have to wear masks indoors.
The Murphy administration said Monday it will keep March 7 as the end date for required masking in schools and child care centers. That applies to all students, teachers, and school staff.
“Many districts and child care centers are still reviewing the guidance released by the Department of Health last week to determine how they would like to proceed. Changing the date the mandate is lifted would create challenges for districts who have been relying on the currently announced timeline for planning purposes,” said Murphy spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday unveiled updated guidance for wearing masks indoors in public places, saying masks indoors may not be required except in counties with a high level of COVID-19. No New Jersey county applies.
The guidance also lifted the CDC’s requirement for masks on public transportation, including school buses, effective Feb. 25.
Alfaro said New Jersey will continue requiring masks on school buses until March 7. Murphy announced that date earlier this month, citing a steep drop in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state.
Republicans who celebrated Murphy’s move to lift the mask mandate are bashing his decision to continue to wait until next week.
“If Gov. Murphy were truly basing his COVID-19 policies on science, he would follow the CDC’s recommendation and lift the mask mandate today for New Jersey schools and everywhere else,” Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris) said in a statement, adding “fears shouldn’t be forced upon everyone else, especially our children.”
Previously, Murphy has characterized the lifting of the mandate as a return to “normalcy” as we “learn to live with COVID.”
During the 2021-2022 school year, 465 outbreaks were reported across 3,500 buildings.
After March 7, school districts can opt to require students to wear masks still, and any students, teachers, or visitors who want to wear a mask will have the right to do so.
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