Gov. Phl Murphy announced Monday that due to the significant decline in statewide COVID-19 numbers, masks and facial coverings will no longer be mandated for students, staff, or visitors in schools and childcare centers in New Jersey beginning on March 7.
“I must thank the overwhelming majority of students, parents, administrators, educators, and support staffers who have worn their masks without problem or protest since our schools reopened for in-person learning. Thankfully, we have reached a point where we feel confident that we can take another step toward normalcy for our kids,” Murphy said. “Given the continued drop in new cases and hospitalizations, projections indicating a continued decline over the coming weeks, and the continued growth of vaccinations for our school-aged population, we believe that we can responsibly end the universal mask mandate.”
School districts and childcare facilities can continue to implement universal masking policies after the mandate is lifted in March, Murphy said. Schools that do not impose universal masking should revise their COVID policies to use masks, among other prevention strategies, under certain circumstances. Schools will not be permitted to bar the use of facial coverings and will be expected to take disciplinary action if students are bullied by other students for choosing to wear masks.
Prior to the mandate being lifted, the New Jersey Department of Health will release guidance to help school districts update their policies to align with the risks and needs of their schools and student population to ensure safe learning environments.
“The Department will develop guidance that incorporates all aspects of safety in schools while children are unmasked,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We know that every parent wants to do what’s best for their children.”
Murphy also said he will sign an executive order extending the state’s public health emergency for another 30 days. Official said the extension allows the state to continue vaccine distribution, vaccination and testing requirements in some settings, to collect COVID-19 data, and to implement recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent or limit the transmission of COVID-19.