Today the State Legislature, in the last day of this legislative session, declined to extend Gov. Phil Murphy’s in-school mask mandate for the additional 90 days that he had requested. Therefore, tomorrow Murphy will declare another public health emergency, which gives him unilateral control to exercise executive privilege.
At his Covid-19 briefing this afternoon, Murphy said
I want to be clear, by the way with no joy … that the mask mandates in schools and daycares will continue at least for the foreseeable future. These requirements give us no joy but are the only responsible course of action at this time.
Political insiders differed in their response. Out-going Senate President Steve Sweeney said lawmakers wouldn’t grant the 90-day extension (or a compromise 45 days, as some had proposed) because “the state has to learn to live with the virus 22 months after the pandemic started here, especially with vaccines now readily available.” NJEA President Sean M. Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty, and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson of the NJ Education Association called Murphy’s forthcoming executive order a “common-sense step to keep public school students and staff safer during this current COVID surge.”
Here is NJEA leaders’ full statement:
“We are pleased that Gov. Murphy has committed to this common-sense step to keep public school students and staff safer during this current COVID surge. Everyone is eager for the day that masks and other COVID safety measures are no longer necessary and the best way to achieve that is for New Jersey to continue following all of the school safety measures currently recommended for schools, including masking, social distancing and vaccination for all who are eligible. NJEA will continue to advocate for the measures that are necessary to keep students safe, healthy and learning and that put our state in the best position to finally emerge from this pandemic. We are proud to work with a governor who shares our commitment to protecting our students and providing the safest possible learning environment for them at this challenging time.”