Governor Murphy Lifts School Mask Mandate


Alex Chizzik, Staff Writer

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has recently announced that the mask mandate in schools will be lifted on March 7, no longer requiring students and teachers to wear masks during the school day.

Murphy is eager for education to revert to normalcy as soon as possible. He explained to the New Jersey Department of Health, “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.” 

After years of living in an isolated pandemic bubble, we have gotten used to social distance, wearing masks and face shields, and staying home away from family and friends. Teachers have done a great job adjusting and adapting to online school formats, hybrid models, and the complete return back to school. Even though students have been back in person, learning and teaching methods have drastically changed along with wearing masks and sitting three feet apart. Both teachers and students want school and the classrooms to return to normalcy, and we might be able to achieve that very soon.

In the past two years that the COVID-19 pandemic has been most prevalent, New Jersey and New York have been at the forefront, battling with case numbers. In the past few months, we have been faced with the Omicron variant, which has impacted the lives of almost everyone. On January 22, 2022, there were reported over 10,000 cases in New Jersey of the spreading variant, which contributes greatly to the 2 million COVID cases in the state. The number of students who were virtual and logged into class on Zoom increased, as they were exposed or had the virus. The number of Omicron cases has dropped from its peak, but people are still on high alert. The main concern with this variant is that it is causing mostly mild symptoms, but is extremely more contagious and prevalent. Along with the governor’s lift of the mask mandate in schools, some parents, teachers, staff, and students worry about their safety and that of others. Murphy told the Department of Health, “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.”

This leaves an important decision to the NJ towns’ school boards to decide what is best for their respective schools. Some towns may choose to continue following the mask mandate, while others may be more eager for normal life’s return and follow in the governor’s footsteps. It is suspected that many school districts and other childcare facilities will continue to implement masking policies after the mandate is lifted on March 7. On the other hand, schools that do not impose masking regulations will be responsible to revise their policies regarding COVID-19. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli wrote: “The Department will develop guidance that incorporates all aspects of safety in schools while children are unmasked,” and that “[they] know that every parent wants to do what’s best for their children.”

No matter what happens, people are still highly encouraged to strictly enforce and follow COVID protocols, quarantine rules, and precautionary measures in order to ensure the safety of themselves and those around them.