PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Students in Paterson, New Jersey, are now required to wear masks as they return to class from their winter break.
School officials decided the new year meant the return of an old policy -- they cited low vaccination rates and the desire to keep kids in classrooms as the reason for the change.
This comes after the state reported its second child flu death this season.
Masks must be worn inside schools and district buildings until further notice.
Superintendent of Schools, Eileen Shafer, notified families on December 22 of the change.
"I want to keep the kids in school for in-person instruction, they were out long enough, remote cannot even come close to a live teacher in a classroom in front of a class of children," Shafer said.
Shafer said she made the decision because of the rising numbers of COVID, RSV and flu cases.
Paterson's Chief Health Officer Doctor Paul Persaud stood in solidarity with the superintendent citing low vaccination rates as another reason to mask up in schools again.
"There has been a precipitous drop in the level of vaccination and specifically boosters and even among kids," Persaud said.
Paterson is the latest district to reinstate the mandate.
The Passaic School District reinstated its mask mandate just before its holiday break.
Data shows hospitalizations are up 14% in Passaic County and cases are down 5% while just 32% received COVID booster shots. That number goes up to 62% for those over the age of 65.
"We gotta do better with boosters," Mayor Andre Sayegh said. "Again it falls in line with the mindset that the pandemic is over, it's not, I have to continue to emphasize this ad nauseum."
There are no exceptions to masking and no options to learn from home. As for what it could take to make masks optional? Officials said it would take getting flu shots, boosters and lowering the number of people in hospital beds.
"To me it's almost unconscionable that someone hasn't gotten one vaccine," Sayegh said.
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