On February 7th, the New Jersey Department of Public Health announced that Governor Phil Murphy would be lifting the ban on the Universal School Mask Mandate.
“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,” Gov Murphy remarks.
Murphy has made it clear to school districts that though the ban is lifted state-wide, ultimately it is them, the school districts who will have the final say in whether or not they will go back to maskless instruction. School districts will have time to make adjustments and debate the necessity of masks wearing in school as the ban will not be officially lifted until March 7th. School districts are encouraged to take into account current trends of Covid-19 infection in their respective districts. The pandemic has also highlighted the medical racial disparity in regard to care and treatment, school districts with a high population of Black and Brown students must also consider this when making these decisions.
Despite the month-long time frame given to school districts to consider the change, Camden City School District has already made clear its decision on the matter. Camden School District announced that it will be continuing its mask mandate until the end of the school year. Camden City schools join Newark city school districts in the decision to continue their mask mandate for all students, staff, and visitors to schools' property. While The state’s seven-day average for confirmed positive coronavirus tests dropped 16% from a week ago and 89% from a month ago, city school officials still have some health concerns regarding the transmission of the virus. Since the start of the academic year, there have been 103,614 students and 28,649 school staff members who have contracted COVID-19 in the state. In Camden County, Camden city has accounted for nearly 20% of Covid-19 cases, and of all the cities in the county is second in the number of Covid -19 related deaths.
“We are glad that the COVID numbers are decreasing in New Jersey however, we want to make sure our young people continue to be safe while in our care. This new sense of normalcy, although difficult at times, will benefit our students, staff, and entire school community,”- Superintendent Katrina McCombs said. In the end, it would seem that while freedom of choice has been afforded to New Jersey schools, they are still subject to the unpredictable nature of the Covid- 19 virus.