Mask Mandate to Remain in Place in New Jersey Schools, Governor Says

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
January 11, 2022 Updated: January 11, 2022

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the statewide mask mandate for schools will continue “for the foreseeable future,” even after his last remaining public health emergency powers expire.

Under an agreement reached last summer between Murphy and state lawmakers, all of Murphy’s administrative orders, directives, and waivers that relied on the existence of the public health emergency were extended until Jan. 11, 2022. That agreement covers Executive Order 251, which requires that all students, staff, and visitors wear masks inside school buildings, regardless of their vaccination status.

Speaking at a press conference in Trenton on Jan. 10, Murphy indicated that he will keep the school mask mandate in place to ensure the return of in-person instructions amid the latest wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because we must keep our kids learning in person, I want to be clear with no joy that the mask mandates in schools and daycare centers will continue at least for the foreseeable future,” he said. “These requirements, again, give us no joy, but they’re the only responsible course of action at this time.”

When asked by a reporter exactly how the mask mandate could stay in effect after the emergency authority it was based upon becomes invalid, the Democratic governor said he is working to figure that out.

“The whole range of directives and orders related to the public health emergency expire tomorrow night at 11:59 on January 11,” Murphy said, dodging the question of whether he is considering to declare a new COVID-19 emergency for the Garden State.

“I would just say that I don’t have a specific construct for you,” he told the reporter. “We’re working very cooperatively with the legislative leadership to make sure we’ve got a good pathway forward, particularly given the overwhelming tsunami that we’re dealing with.”

Hours after the press conference, the New Jersey state Senate declared during a voting session that it will not vote on a resolution that would extend Murphy’s COVID-19 emergency powers beyond Jan. 11. According to Senate President Steve Sweeney, the state legislature had never been informed that the governor’s office is seeking to prolong the pandemic-related mandates.

“We were not informed of [the Murphy administration] taking this action today, and we will not move these resolutions today,” Sweeney, a Democrat, announced as the Republican minority in the chamber applauded the decision.

“They didn’t tell us they were making any kind of announcement today,” Sweeney told reporters after the voting session, reported New Jersey Monitor. “I’m done for now. But the way I feel about it is it was just disrespectful, in my mind, to make the announcement while we’re on the floor. Someone give us a text, an email, a phone call, something.”

Bill Pan