NJ, CT to end school mask mandate, NY staying in place and could extend

Tri-State Coronavirus Update
NEW YORK (WABC) -- There is a new phase of the pandemic when it comes to masking in schools, but not everyone is making the leap yet.

Connecticut and New Jersey plan to eliminate school mask mandates in the coming weeks, citing a dip in COVID-19 cases as the omicron surge subsides.

However, in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul indicated during a meeting with educators that she may not lift the state's indoor mask mandate for schools until after winter recess. She said she would like to lift the mask mandate, but school safety comes first.

"We are not removing the ability of individual district leaders to maintain and enforce such a policy within their schools, or any private childcare provider from maintaining such a policy within their business should community conditions require," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said. "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."

One such district keeping facemasks in their schools is Newark, where officials reportedly plan to keep their protocols in place.

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At Franklin Elementary School, they say students have adjusted to life with masks.

""I feel like wearing masks and being protected is a good thing to keep us safe and healthy," sixth grader Iyalee said.

Franklin Elementary Principal Amy Panitch says mandatory masks in the building has kept this school year relatively healthy.

"I think the students are so happy to be back in school in person for so many reasons that they're willing to do whatever it takes to stay safe," she said. "The safety procedures and protocols we have in place have been extremely effective. No matter how many cases we've had come into the building, there's been zero spread."

Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger Leon say they're taking a cautious approach.

"We're taking a concerted effort at making any changes, studying it, and then making additional changes," he said. "So could it happen by (March) 7? I don't necessarily think that that's within reality."

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul is not yet ready to lose the school mask mandate.

She says she wants to see vaccination rates improve among children ages 5 to 11 years old.


She then indicated to the educators that the state's timetable is to see where things stand after winter recess. Midwinter recess for NYC public school students is Feb. 21 to Feb. 25.

The New York State Department of Health says they expect the mandate to be renewed.

In a statement Monday, 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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