coronavirus

NJ to Require Students Wear Masks in Schools this Fall: Official

The state initially planned to leave masking decisions up to individual districts

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will announce that students in K-12 schools will have to wear masks at the start of the year, an administration official tells News 4.

The governor is expected to make the announcement Friday during a public event, the official confirmed. The development, which was first reported by NJ.com, is an about-face from the governor's previous guidance: he had planned to leave the matter up to individual districts.

Back in late June, Murphy said masks will not be mandatory in schools across the state "absent any dramatic change in our situation" while revealing guidance for the 2021-2022 school year.

But as caseloads surge nationwide thanks to the hyper-infectious delta variant of COVID-19, the ground has shifted on masking indoors. Earlier this month, the CDC recommended all Americans -- vaccinated or not -- mask up inside if they live in an area with high transmission.

According to recent CDC data, every county but one -- Warren County -- have had either "substantial" or "high" transmission over the last week.

The state will also require masks on public schools buses, a policy that has been in place since last school year.

Murphy had said in May that he anticipated students would have to start the academic year wearing face masks, particularly considering the fact many aren't yet eligible for vaccination.

State education officials previously stated that with remote instruction off of the metaphorical classroom table, school staff should still be ready to facilitate virtual learning for any students that exhibit symptoms of COVID.

Schools have been a bright spot in terms of exceptionally low COVID rates in New Jersey, and in New York across the river, in the face of varying vaccine eligibility between young people.

A number of parents expressed frustration with ongoing school mask mandates as the past school year waned, citing low in-school transmission rates and overall improvement in the national and local COVID outlooks.

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