Everything You Need to Know About Murphy’s School Mask Mandate

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On Friday afternoon in East Brunswick, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order requiring all pre-k through 12th grade students in traditional, charter, renaissance, and private schools to wear masks. Staff members, of course, are also required to mask up. “This is not an announcement that gives any of us or me personally any pleasure,” Murphy said. “But as the school year approaches, and with the numbers rapidly increasing, it is the one that we need to make.”

The mask mandate had been previously recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Murphy is still barring online or hybrid instruction even though, for instance, in Newark 67% of Black parents would prefer their children learn remotely. In fact, there has been a statewide 3 percent decrease in enrollment since the onset of the pandemic. The biggest decrease is among economically-disadvantaged students, whose enrollment dropped by 10 percent. 

When asked what would have to happen for him to allow hybrid or remote instruction, Murphy said, “It would have to be a meaningful, sustained deterioration in the public health data that we make our decisions based on.”

Currently the rate of Covid-19 transmission is 1.36, which means every person infected with the virus transmits it to more than one person, down from 1.5 last month.

The Executive Order says,

NOW, THEREFORE, I, PHILIP D. MURPHY, Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT all public, private, and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools (collectively “school districts”), must maintain a policy regarding mandatory use of face masks by staff, students, and visitors in the indoor portion of the school district premises.

Here are the exceptions to the mask mandate:

  • When doing so would inhibit someone’s health, such as exposure to extreme heat.
  • When someone has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without help.
  • When a student’s documented medical condition or disability precludes use of a mask.
  • When someone is under 2 years old.
  • When someone is engaged in an activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating and drinking or playing an instrument that would be obstructed one.
  • When someone is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity.
  • When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from all other individuals.
  • When wearing a mask creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.
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