Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that all NJ students in kindergarten through 12th grade, educators, staff and visitors will be required to mask up at the start of the school year in September. The news comes following rising numbers of COVID cases and concern over the Delta variant along with the recent CDC recommendations. The governor made the announcement at a public event today.
“The health and safety of our kids is among, if not my most sacred responsibility,” Murphy said. “There are issues that must always remain above politics and this is one of them. Anyone telling you that we can safely reopen our schools without requiring everyone inside to wear a mask is quite simply lying to you, because we can’t,” he said.
The governor has been adamant about the fact that New Jersey will return to full-time, in-person instruction this fall with no option for remote learning and reiterated on Friday that this would be the case. Regarding masks, back in June, he said he would leave it up to the individual school districts to decide whether to require masks for students and staff.
“I want as much as anybody else in our state to see our kids’ smiles as they start their school years. But I don’t want to see at the same time any of them getting sick needlessly or schools have to shut down again and go remote because of an outbreak, and especially of a dangerous variant that is putting kids in its crosshairs. Absent this requirement, that is where we will end up.”
Nothing was mentioned in the governor’s address regarding the fact that since students will be in school for a full day of school, which includes lunch, how masks will be managed while they eat. Some parents will likely praise the move to require masks while others will oppose it, ready for a return to normalcy for their kids but Murphy stressed that this is the only way forward.
The CDC has recommended that students wear masks since those under age 12 are still ineligible for the vaccine.
“Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” reads an update on the CDC’s guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools.
Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID remain well below the numbers they did at their peak, due in part to the fact that New Jersey has relatively high vaccination rates.