NJ quietly updates K-12 mask guidelines for March 7 … and beyond

TRENTON – The New Jersey Department of Health updated its recommendations on Tuesday regarding the circumstances in which wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19 in K-12 schools in the state would be appropriate after the end of the statewide mandate on Monday, March 7. .

The NJDOH update acknowledged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend masks for all students 2 years and older, teachers, staff and visitors, but that “circumstances in New Jersey are are improved to the point where relaxation of universal masking rules in K-12 schools can generally occur.”

Districts that choose not to continue requiring masking after March 7 are asked to consider active outbreaks, people returning from isolation or quarantine, symptom onset at school, and students in “test to stay” protocols as scenarios in which those affected should be asked to mask themselves.

The guidelines also include the COVID-19 Activity Level Index, or CALI, “high (orange) or “very high” (red) scores, though CALI was dropped as a determinant of duration of illness. quarantine before the December break.

“A lot of these decisions will, appropriately, be made at the district level with input from local health authorities and local health realities,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday.

A CALI score of “moderate” (yellow) can be considered a prerequisite for mask requirements for activities or environments “in which increased exhalation occurs”, such as indoor athletics.

Exposed close contacts who cannot wear a mask for intellectual, developmental, physical, or medical purposes 6-10 days after their exposure will be asked to self-quarantine for a full 10-day period, or not return until on day 8 if asymptomatic and with a negative test result on days 5-7, as directed.

Several New Jersey public school systems, including Newark but also Camden, Hillside, Plainfield and others, have already said they will continue to require masks after March 7.

School districts that do not keep universal policies in place and are experiencing a COVID outbreak in school should consider increased testing, or at least a partial return to masking in affected classrooms, the NJDOH said.

The NJDOH reiterated that masks should continue to be worn on school buses in accordance with the federal mandate, and that students and staff should not be discouraged from wearing masks given their personal level of concern about virus transmission. .

“Nothing will or may prevent a student, educator or staff member from continuing to wear a mask indoors if they so choose, and from doing so without fear of being bullied or otherwise singled out for making that choice,” Murphy said.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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