Phil Murphy’s school mask mandate officially ends in January but don’t count on it

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Photo 196234830 © Natallia Haidutskaya | school face mask child unhappy bus stop - stock photo.

TRENTON, NJ – In light of a complete eradication and 100% vaccination of all eligible children and adults in the state of New Jersey, don’t expect Governor Phil Murphy’s school face mask mandate to go away anytime soon.

In fact, the current mandate legally ends on January 11th, but unless the New Jersey Senate and Legislature act, the Governor has free will to extend the mandate another six months, at his pleasure.

When asked if and when he would end the mask mandate now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available to all children aged 5 through 17, Murphy it depends on future variants and vaccination rates among school children.

“I assume the strongarm – your point was related to that, so if you get vaccinated, we’ll lift the mandate; I don’t view that strong – I view that just factually. I think it’s a number of factors, and I’ll include the question you asked about Europe as part of this,” Murphy responded. “Certainly this is a big step in the right direction, so that’s very good. Secondly, another piece of good news, our general vaccination rates continue to go up. I think the booster uptake is lower than we would like. Hard to say otherwise. Generally, vaccination overall going up. Thirdly, the Delta – the current caseload and the current Delta base variant, we clearly have that going in the right direction.”

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With New Jerseyans moving inside for the winter, Murphy doesn’t expect to end the mandate in January and a renewal is anticipated.

“What works against us? Inside more than outside, holidays,” Murphy said. “The executive order for mask mandating in schools, just to put a date out there – and I’m not suggesting this is the date folks should focus on but another data point – is January 11th that expires. We would have to volitionally re-up that, but I would hope this is the beginning of a process – I can’t tell you exactly when – that we’ll be able to get to that place sooner than later. It’s not today, but I hope sooner than later.”

Currently, all New Jersey students who are fully vaccinated are also required to wear face masks. Eliminating that requirement could help the governor boost vaccinations among children and even school staff.