COMMENTARY: It’s Time for Murphy to Take Off His MAGA HatFebruary 7, 2022
‘President’ Phil Murphy?February 8, 2022
Yesterday Gov. Phil Murphy announced that his mask mandate for all schools and daycare centers (for children over 2) would be lifted on March 7th, a month from now. “We’re not going to manage Covid to zero. We have to learn how to live with Covid as we move from a pandemic, to the endemic phase of this virus,” Murphy said. “The overall rates of infection among all students and educational staff, regardless of where that exposure occurred, has dropped off significantly over the past month” and called a “huge step back to normalcy for our kids.”
The statewide mask mandate for schools and child care settings will be lifted effective March 7th.
We can responsibly take the step given the continuing drop in new cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, and the continued growth in vaccinations. pic.twitter.com/89CM3Fq4fz
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) February 7, 2022
New Jersey’s two largest school districts beg to differ. In Newark, the largest district in the state, Newark schools spokeswoman Nancy Deering said, “The wearing of masks is part of the district’s protocols and we are maintaining our protocols,” whether that be for students, staff, or visitors. (Newark Superintendent Roger León was “unavailable for comment.”) And in Jersey City, NJ’s second largest district, Interim Superintendent Norma Fernandez said the district would “take its time” in removing mask mandates in schools because the students are “very cooperative” so “district staff and stakeholders will evaluate the situation and reach a consensus.”
Ron Greco, president of the Jersey City Education Association, says lifting the mask mandate “is a very dangerous road to go down.” He said everyone should still have the mask on, “at least for the remainder of this school year. My position is masks are a way of life now.”
The statewide teachers’ union, the New Jersey Education Association, said in a statement Monday that it is “cautiously optimistic that the current statewide school mask mandate can be safely relaxed in the near future, assuming current trends continue.”
In early January Murphy reinstated a Public Health Emergency “to ensure that the State is able to respond to the continued threat of COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. “COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our State and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the Omicron variant.” With cases down (and, perhaps, much more data showing that only K95 and N95 masks are effective in stopping contagion: “Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron,” explains Dr. Leana Wen) the threat of coronavirus, according to Murphy, has abated.