TRENTON — Students, educators and other school and daycare staff will no longer have to wear masks starting the first week of March, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.
“As of March 7, the statewide mask mandate in schools will be lifted. Balancing public health with a return to some semblance of normality is not easy. But we can take this step responsibly due to declining COVID numbers and growth in vaccinations,” Murphy said on Twitter, sharing a New York Times article that first announced the adjustment in Classes.
Citing the drop in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and the continued decline of the omicron wave, Murphy said during a Sunday television appearance for NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it was time to start learning. to live with COVID.
Attacked by Republicans
Republican state lawmakers said they felt the ad was a victory for them in what they billed as a ‘give it back’ campaign, accusing the governor of taking things away for two years during the global COVID pandemic which has claimed 5.7 million lives according to the World Health Organization on Friday.
Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho, along with fellow senators Kristin Corrado, Declan O’Scanlon and Michael Testa responded to the planned March cancellation of the school mask mandate by saying it should be over now, calling it a parental rights issue.
Testa said “if it was truly guided by ‘science,’ this arbitrary warrant would have been lifted 23 months ago, and the governor knows it.”
The news prompted some teachers to criticize the decision, but the teachers’ union took a measured approach.
“We are encouraged by the data showing a rapid decline in COVID transmission in New Jersey. For this reason, we are cautiously optimistic that the current statewide school mask mandate can be safely relaxed in the near future, assuming current trends continue,” according to a joint statement from the president. from the New Jersey Education Association, Sean Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty and Secretary. -Treasurer Petal Robertson.
“We urge Governor Murphy to continue to analyze the data and do whatever is necessary to best protect the health and well-being of students and staff. This includes the option of maintaining or re-imposing the mask mandate for schools after March 7 if the data indicates this is the right path,” the NJEA leadership statement read.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics continue to recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of immunization status, for the school year 2021-22.
“Constant use of a face mask or respirator in indoor public places was associated with a lower likelihood of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44)” , according to a data update Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Use of respirators with higher filtration capacity was associated with the greatest protection, compared to no mask use,” the CDC said in its latest update on the effective use of the mask.
At least 29,047 people in New Jersey have died from COVID, as confirmed by state officials, with another 2,919 deaths likely due to COVID.
Murphy last reinstated a public health emergency on Jan. 11, keeping a number of executive orders and guidelines in place, including the school mask mandate.
At the time, the number of hospitalized patients with COVID was over 6,000, including more than 900 in intensive care units.
As of Monday, there were just over 1,900 hospitalized patients who had tested positive, including 360 in ICUs.
Some say it’s too soon
Reaction to the impending cancellation of the mask mandate has been polarized on social media as some said it was premature while others questioned why the extra month of regulations was needed.
Vaccination rate in children
As of Monday, 72,330 children between the ages of 5 and 11 had been vaccinated against COVID across the state.
Another 99,837 children aged 12 to 15 had also received injections from Pfizer (the only COVID vaccine approved for those under 18) and only 37,109 adolescents aged 16 or 17.
There is still no COVID vaccination allowed for children under 5, in February.
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