Governor Murphy lifts mask mandate in NJ public schools

Many schools will not enforce mask wearing due to the repeal of the mandate

Jadaa Cruz, News Writer

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has removed the statewide mask mandate for schools beginning on March 7; thus permitting students and faculty the opportunity to freely roam the halls without a mask. 

In a press release last month, the Governor stated, “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.”

The recent update regarding face masks will allow students to familiarize themselves with their classmates, as well as their teachers. 

“I feel happy [be]cause now I [will] see what people actually look like,” said sophomore Ryan Haber. He also said that he will be surprised to see everyone’s faces for the first time. 

According to New Jersey Health, “Schools will not be permitted to bar the use of facial coverings by individuals and will be expected to take disciplinary action in instances of bullying should they arise due to an individual’s choice to continue wearing a mask.” This puts the onus squarely on individual districts to determine whether or not students will be required to wear masks. 

Since masks will be optional, students will not have to be consciously aware of their facial coverings. 

Sophomore Yahsan Styles believes the statement of “‘pull your masks up’ is very annoying.”

Additionally, many believe that the relaxed mask requirements will benefit students and faculty with communication within the classrooms. 

“When [my teachers] are far away,” stated sophomore Geoffory Noble, “I can’t really hear them as much, but when the mask comes off, I will be able to hear them.” Noble also thinks that understanding his peers will be better, considering that the masks hinder the ability to view expressions. 

After twenty-three months of the state-wide mask mandate in schools, the government’s decision for the removal stemmed from newly gathered data. 

As reported by New York Times, “Cases have decreased recently but are still very high. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has also fallen in the Burlington County area. Deaths have remained at about the same level. The test positivity rate in Burlington County is very high, suggesting that cases are being significantly undercounted.”

Based on the statistics from February 7, the Times pointed to “An average of 88 cases per day were reported in Burlington County” which is a 57 percent decrease. 

Despite the government’s plan, the Times recommends residents of Burlington County should continue to wear face masks “because [the area is] high spread” and “extremely high risk.” Even the CDC continues to emphasize mask-wearing on its website: “The CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (ages 2 years and older), staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” The CDC notes, however, that it is continuing to update its guidelines each week.

Not all RV community members are as excited about the dropping of mask requirements, and some continue to demonstrate ambivalence towards going maskless.

“If the numbers that [the school] report each week are accurate, then dropping mask requirements seems like a logical step,” said English teacher Ms. Filauro. “I’m still going to wear my mask, because I’m still worried about getting sick. But I am really excited to not have to enforce it anymore.”

Many other states, including Pennsylvania, are also dropping mask requirements in many settings. But Philadelphia public schools will continue to require masks in schools for the time being.

The government’s decision will allow students and faculty to get a glimpse of school life before the pandemic.