At Gov. Phil Murphy’s press briefing yesterday (where questions focused on gubernatorial challenger Jack Ciatarelli’s claim that Murphy tolerated a “frat-boy” culture during the 2017 campaign that led to the abuse of Katie Brennan), he was asked about whether there was a chance schools would return to remote instruction due to the continuing spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. While New Jersey’s seven-day average of transmission is 2% lower than last week, it’s still 94% higher than a month ago.
Murphy replied that it was “unlikely” that he would order remote learning and would only do so if there was a “dramatic outbreak of some sort.”
Reporters also asked him how serious he was about the mask mandate. (Hirsh Singh, who is primarying Ciatarelli, claims mandating masks in schools is “child abuse” and a Burlington County resident says vaccine and mask mandates constitute an “abuse of power.”)
Murphy says he is quite serious. While exceptions to mask and vaccine mandates are permitted for certain medical conditions, (and people can choose weekly testing instead of jabs) “this is not mom or dad writing a note saying Johnny or Sally doesn’t want to wear one.”
He added that most districts (not all) are complying with his Executive Orders.
What seems to get lost in the passionate, and at times angry, debate over masks in schools is that it’s unknown how long it will last. The school year is almost 10-months long and it’s hard to see the mandate lasting even half that long. The governor has made the point that a mask mandate can instantly disappear, but in a polarized environment, nuance is lost. Still, Murphy went there again today, saying that the school mask mandate is unlikely to be ‘forever and always.’