Murphy talks school mask mandates as three districts return to forced masking of students

Students wearing face mask (facemask) in school COVID-19 line Photo 195102392 © Michele D’Ottavio | Dreamstime.com

PATERSON, NJ – It was back to 2020 for students in Patterson and Passaic this week as local school districts across the state returned to forced mask mandates for students, staff, and faculty.

Paterson’s school district educates 25,000 students, the fourth largest in New Jersey.

Camden schools also returned to mask mandates on Tuesday. Paterson and Camden join the Passaic school district, which began requiring face masks on December 21st. There are 6,800 students in Camden.

Governor Phil Murphy however said the political environment is preventing a return to a state mask mandate.

“We don’t want to mandate things that we can’t enforce, and I don’t think the market is going to bear that,” the governor said during the Christmas break.

Paterson school district Superintendent Eileen Shafer said the return to masking up was to mitigate the spread of illness.

According to state and federal health statistics, COVID-19 related illness has remained low when compared to figures between December 2021 and January 2022.

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Last year, cases in January peaked at 28,000 across the state. There were just 3,400 cases on New Year’s Day statewide.

Since April, there have been between 8 and 12 deaths per day across New Jersey associated with COVID-19, after a spike in January of 2022. The rate of transmission in New Jersey is 1.08.

Unlike previous mask mandates directed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, the latest round of mask mandates is also geared toward preventing the spread of RSV and the seasonal flu.

Last Monday, Governor Murphy re-inserted himself in the school mask mandate conversation.

“I don’t foresee any mandates in New Jersey unless something drastically changes,” the governor told the media. “I think people should just use their commonsense and do the basic stuff like get vaccinated, get boosted, if you’re not feeling well, certainly if you test positive, take yourself off the field and that to me remains the right sensible, commonsense advice.”