New Jersey Orders Universal Masking in Schools
Governor Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced on Friday that in the face of the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, all students, teachers, staff and visitors should wear masks inside school buildings when public schools will open in a few weeks.
“This is not an announcement that pleases any of us or me personally,” said Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, speaking at an elementary school in eastern Brunswick. “But as the school year approaches and the numbers increase rapidly, this is the one we need to do now.”
He said the mask’s mandate would not be permanent and allowed “the same common sense exceptions that were in place for the last school year, including for students with documented health issues or disabilities that make wearing it. ” a difficult or dangerous mask, strenuous activities in gym classes, excessive heat, playing a musical instrument or eating in a classroom or cafeteria.
The move, in line with federal guidelines released last week, was a change from Mr Murphy’s stance in June, when he said individual districts would decide to hide themselves. But cases have risen sharply since then in the state, but not to levels last year, when New Jersey was an epicenter of the pandemic’s first wave, or its fall and fall surges. last winter and this spring.
Universal masking has strong support in New Jersey. Marie Blistan, who heads the New Jersey Education Association, representing some 200,000 teachers, praised Mr. Murphy’s leadership at the same event, noting “when I see some putting political positions ahead of health, good -being and well-being of our schools and our students.
Recent federal guidelines have said that even those vaccinated should wear masks indoors in areas where cases are increasing, and that everyone, vaccinated or not, should wear masks in schools.
However, some opponents were unleashed before Mr Murphy’s announcement, providing a window into the political polarization of the problem in the United States.
Kelly Lepine Ford, who is a leader of Free NJ Children, a group that sues to block school mask warrants, claimed masking was one of the causes of the sharp rise in mental health crises in children. “Talk to other parents like me and you will hear similar experiences from their children struggling with mental health issues because of these school mandates,” she said in an email.
Jon Bramnick, the Minority Leader in the New Jersey State Assembly, posted his objections to the mandate on Twitter, focusing closely on the lack of legislative hearings involved in the decision. In a phone interview, MP Jon Bramnick said, “Everyone should come home from the beach, go straight to Trenton, I’m talking about lawmakers and get down to business.” Responses to his post, however, turned it into a forum for broader anti-mandate sentiments.
Just weeks ago, with new cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the decline across much of the country, elected leaders from both parties were making optimistic statements about a triumphant return to normal schooling.
But the furious spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, coupled with lagging vaccination rates, has shattered those hopes as cases have surged across the country.
Some states, like California and Illinois, have statewide mask mandates in schools. New York City will maintain its school mask requirement. Atlanta public schools reopened this week and require students to wear masks, although the rest of Georgia does not have ordinances in effect.
But the resistance is strong. In some states, Republicans have passed laws or signed executive orders prohibiting school officials from imposing mask warrants, leaving parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in class.
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