'We have to learn how to live with COVID': NJ lifting school mask mandate

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that he is lifting New Jersey's school mask mandate starting next month.

It comes as case numbers continue to decline in the Tri-State area following the omicron surge.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also announced Monday that he is recommending the statewide mask mandate for schools and child care end Feb. 28.

Murphy announced on Twitter that the mandate will be lifted starting March 7.

"Balancing public health with getting back to some semblance of normalcy is not easy," he wrote. "But we can responsibly take this step due to declining COVID numbers and growth in vaccinations."

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Gov. Phil Murphy announces that the mask mandate for New Jersey schools will soon come to an end.



The governor said that officials will plan to provide guidance to New Jersey schools to help them make the best decisions on when masks should or should not be worn.

Murphy said school districts and childcare facilities can continue to implement universal masking policies after the mandate is lifted in March. Schools will not be permitted to bar the use of facial coverings by individuals and will be expected to take disciplinary action in instances of bullying should they arise due to an individual's choice to continue wearing a mask.

"We are not going to manage COVID to zero, we have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus," Murphy said.

The head of the union representing educators says the flexibility gives parents, staff and teachers a say in masking policy.

WATCH | Rutgers professor breaks down debate over mask mandates
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Rutgers psychology professor Maurice Elias joins Eyewitness News to break down the debate on mask mandates and requirements.



"Follow the science, if it does mandate mask-wearing or other measures at that time, we've got to follow that as well," NJEA President Sean Spiller said.

Also on Monday, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced their indoor mask requirement will end this Thursday.

"In recent days, the numbers make it clear that cases are significantly falling in the region, which is welcome news," Bhalla said. "This data point, combined with Hoboken's high vaccination rate, robust testing options, and low hospitalizations, make it possible for us to lift our indoor mask requirement."

School mask mandates are expected to expire this month in New York and Connecticut.

NY Governor Kathy Hochul indicated late last week that changes to the state's mandates are coming, as the current order requiring vaccination or masking in businesses expires Feb. 10, and the mask mandate for schools expires Feb. 21.

In a new statement, the CDC says it's up to local officials to make the rules, but their recommendation remains masks for everyone, ages 2 and up:

"CDC guidance is meant to supplement-not replace-any federal, state, tribal, local, or territorial health and safety laws, rules, and regulations. The adoption and implementation of our guidance should be done in collaboration with regulatory agencies and state, tribal, local, and territorial public health departments, and in compliance with state and local policies and practices."

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A large focus for Saving Active Hearts is helping schools implement a cardiac emergency response plan. Darla Miles has more.





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