As a measure to curb the increase in cases of COVID-19 in the state, Gov. Phil Murphy has implemented through an executive order a mask mandate for New Jersey schools.
However, the return to universal in-person learning under this condition has not been easily accepted. While numerous health officials have praised Murphy´s initiative, there have been protests in East Brunswick and near the Governor’s home in Middletown.
As reported by nj.com, the mask mandate for schools calls for all students in preschool through 12th grade, as well teachers, staff members, and visitors, to wear masks inside all schools across the Garden State at least for the start of the new academic year. That includes all public, private, parochial, charter, and renaissance schools.
What are the exceptions?
- When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;
- When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
- When a student’s documented medical condition or disability precludes use of a face covering;
- When the individual is under two years of age;
- When an individual is engaged in an activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating and drinking or playing an instrument that would be obstructed by the face covering;
- When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity;
- When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or
- When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.
Murphy said that New Jersey’s schools will return to all-day in-person instruction, with no more option for hybrid learning, despite the uptick in coronavirus numbers.
“We remain steadfast in the recognition that our children learn better in a classroom setting tailored for their educations,” he said.
How will it be enforced?
The Governor said it would be up to individual school districts to “come up with appropriate consequences” for students who do not wear masks or parents who refuse the mandate for schools.
When will the mandate for schools end?
Murphy did not provide give a specific date. However, he said he will lift it if there’s a “meaningful improvement” in the state’s coronavirus data and as vaccinations increase.
“We hope it’s not a permanent step,” he said. “We hope we beat this thing. The more people that comply with masking, the more people who get vaccinated, the higher the probability is we can take a turn for the better.”
What do health experts say?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last month it’s recommending everyone in K-12 schools in America to mask up to battle the Delta variant.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends face coverings.
Meanwhile, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all New Jersey residents wear masks at public places indoors as COVID-19 cases spike.