Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday a mask requirement in New Jersey schools for all students in kindergarten through 12th grad. Staff members and visitors also will have to wear masks indoors at the start of the new academic year to help fight rising COVID-19 numbers.
The announcement was made at an elementary school in East Brunswick, where a group of protestors showed their disagreement.
Murphy said masks are needed because of delta’s “recent and rampant spread,” no children under the age of 12 in the U.S. is eligible to be vaccinated yet, and “too many” older children remain unvaccinated. State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said 46% of children 12 to 18 have been immunized.
The mask requirement was also posted on Murphy´s twitter account. “All students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear masks inside of school buildings, regardless of vaccination status,for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.”
As reported by nj.com, this announcement represents a change from earlier plans. The Democratic governor stated in late June New Jersey planned not to have a statewide requirement for masks in school for the upcoming academic year.
“The right thing to do”
The decision concerning masking would depend on the districts. However, Murphy also had warned that mask plans could change quickly if the state’s coronavirus numbers deteriorate “dramatically.”
The health and safety of our kids is among my most sacred responsibilities.
All students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear masks inside of school buildings – regardless of vaccination status – for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year. pic.twitter.com/FAv00VcoH0
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) August 6, 2021
“This is not an announcement that gives any of us or me personally any pleasure,” Murphy said. “But as the school year approaches, and with the numbers rapidly increasing, it is the one that we need to make.”
The Governor insisted that the mask requirement is “the right thing” to do. He questioned as well the critics and expressed they are “lying” about the issue. “Anyone telling you that we can safely reopen our schools without requiring everyone inside to wear a mask is quite simply lying to you.”
“Masks got political”
Murphy made it clear that the issue at stake goes beyond political contests. “Masks got political,” he added. “But it need not be the case, folks. This is a simple step that each of us can take, kids and adults, that meaningfully pushes back against the transmission of this virus, and especially this variant. Let’s leave the politics at the door.”
The mask requirement comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last month it is recommending everyone in K-12 schools in the United States to mask up as the Delta variant has increased COVID-19 infection cases nationwide.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends face masks. And the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union has backed the CDC’s guidance on the issue.