NJ COVID Omicron update: State could drop school mask mandate this year, Murphy says

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state could drop its school mask mandate before the end of the year if COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop.

Murphy offered some hope that it could happen by the end of the school year during an interview Thursday morning.

"You're speaking about a school year that ends in June, I think there's a real shot at that," Murphy said. "We are early days in terms of turning the corner but it certainly looks like we've begun to turn the corner here."

The governor was also asked about the decision to get all health care workers vaccinated and boosted and dropping the testing options.

It's a decision that is not sitting well with New Jersey's largest health care workers' union.

"At a time when it is critical to have even more testing, I'm not understanding why we're testing less," said HPAE President Debbie White.

The COVID-19 indicators in New Jersey are moving in the right direction although the number of hospital workers with the virus is still high, according to the union.

The state has seen a 7-day average of 2,128 new cases which is down 51% from a week ago, but still up 118% from a month ago.

On Thursday morning, University Hospital in Newark rolled out the welcome mat for 23 Army medics to relieve nurses and staff who stood steadfast during the pandemic and fighting the omicron variant.

The military team will start working side by side with health care workers on Saturday.

"We want to stop losing and the way for us to start winning and to sustain those victories is for us to remember we're all in this battle together and this is why it's so important to have the military come in and shore up our institution," said Dr. Chris Pernell with University Hospital.

The help has arrived just as many hospitals are reporting a drop in COVID patients and there is a more upbeat tone coming from the country's top infectious disease expert.

"The first few weeks of February it is very likely that most of the states in the country will have turned around their peak and are starting to come down," Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Fauci said New York and New Jersey may have already reached their peak.

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