New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Sunday defended his decision to ease mask mandates for schools in the state, saying that he predicts other districts will also follow suit in easing such restrictions as warmer weather begins in the spring.
“Our numbers are improving and I would use the word ‘dramatically,'” Murphy said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“My gut tells me, particularly as we get into warmer weather in the spring and assuming the virus continues to go in the right direction, you’ll have the overwhelming a lot of districts following suit and lifting the mandate,” he said.
The governor is among a handful of Democrats in the United States that have said that Americans will have to learn how to live in a world with COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Murphy announced on Feb. 7 that masks and facial coverings will no longer be mandated for students, staff, or visitors in schools and childcare centers across the state, citing a “significant decline” in the number of statewide COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The new rule goes into effect on March 7.
“Rate of transmission, positivity rate hospitalizations, cases in school transmissions—all going in a dramatically good direction,” Murphy told CBS on Sunday. “The challenge is this spike, this variant has spiked straight up, and it’s now coming straight down. New Jersey, New York, got hit early in this wave, as we have in all of the waves.
“The fact of the matter is our experience is very different right now from the average American state’s experience,” Murphy continued. “So, the CDC, which we have been adherent to from the get-go, and we think they’re doing a terrific job, they’ve just got a much more complex reality. The science and the data and the facts on the ground in New Jersey have allowed us to take this step.”
New Jersey had required students, teachers, and staff to wear masks since September 2020.
While Murphy is lifting the statewide mask mandate, under the new rules, individual school districts will be able to decide whether they want to continue implementing their own masking rules.
Schools that chose not to impose masking will need to revise their COVID-19 policies to “utilize masking among other prevention strategies under certain circumstances.”
Institutions will also not be permitted to completely ban the use of facial coverings by individuals and will be expected to take disciplinary action in instances where bullying arises due to an individual’s choice to continue wearing a mask, Murphy said.
The announcement received a mixed response from officials, including the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), a teachers union, who said it remains “cautiously optimistic” about the move following encouraging data showing a rapid decline of COVID-19 transmission in the state.
However, NJEA urged Murphy to consider “the possibility of maintaining or reimposing the mask mandate for schools after March 7th if the data indicate that is the correct course.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Feb. 11 said that the decision by a number of states to lift masking mandates is “probably premature” but noted that it’s a “tough call.”
“The science is saying now that masks work, masks make a difference,” Biden said in an interview with NBC.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Murphy spoke of Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin who is currently facing a lawsuit from several school boards after announcing a similar move regarding face masks.
“They’ve done that backwards,” Murphy said of Virginia. “They basically banned mandates and then said to the district, ‘Sue us to get that overturned.’ We’ve done the exact opposite,” Murphy said, noting that his order still allows districts to decide whether or not they want to continue implementing their own masking rules.