NJ’s school mask tenure will continue, Gov. Phil Murphy said
Students and teachers will be required to wear masks at school for “the foreseeable future,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday, even as lawmakers planned to let his the authority to impose this mandate expires.
Murphy did not say exactly how he plans to impose the mandate, but his announcement prompted Senate Speaker Stephen Sweeney to withdraw a resolution this would have given the governor back some of his powers to tighten COVID restrictions, primarily regarding hospitals and administrative matters, but not the ability to enforce a statewide mask warrant.
Murphy may have other options that would allow him to restore his masking authority if the legislature allows his powers to expire on January 11, such as declaring another public health emergency.
Sweeney, who presided over his last voting session on Monday after losing re-election, said Murphy’s announcement was “disrespectful” to lawmakers and “aggravating as hell” that he did not. not been consulted.
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And after nearly two years of COVID-19 restrictions, Sweeney added, “we’ve got to find a way to live with this.”
Murphy took the opposite view on Monday afternoon, when he announced highest number of hospitalizations since the first wave of April 2020.
“Unmistakably, the mask’s mandate in schools will continue for the foreseeable future,” he said during his regular COVID-19 briefing in Trenton. “We cannot responsibly, in the face of this tsunami, shift gears on this point.”
At this point, lawmakers were still planning to vote on resolutions that did not include the governor’s renewal of the power to require masks in schools, raising the possibility of leaving this decision to the state’s more than 600 school districts. .
Sweeney said local decisions on the masking would be more consistent with what the governor has been doing for many months.
“When you tell school districts you can decide if you’re Zoom or if you’re in person, but I’ll tell you what you’re doing inside the building – it’s just not consistent,” did he declare.
Murphy’s office declined to comment on Sweeney’s remarks.
The governor agreed last May to end the public health emergency he declared at the start of the pandemic, in 2020. In exchange, he gave up many powers but retained others, such as the possibility of tightening social restrictions .
Murphy asked the legislature last week to renew its authority, which expires at midnight Tuesday, for 90 days. But the resolution that was to be voted on Monday renews his powers for 45 days and does not include his Executive Decree on masks in schools.
Ahead of the final vote, the state’s largest teachers’ union said it was “appalled” that lawmakers would not support the governor’s permission to extend the mask’s tenure, especially when schools have struggling to stay open in the wave of new cases.
“Failure to include this fundamental step to protect children would be dangerous, irresponsible, and demonstrates complete disregard for the health of students and staff in New Jersey public schools,” said the New Jersey Education Association. said in a press release.
The rise of the omicron variant has placed New Jersey in uncharted territory since the first wave of the pandemic. There were 6,075 COVID patients in hospital on Sunday, the highest number since April 29, 2020, Murphy said.
However, 2,963 of those patients were hospitalized primarily because of their COVID diagnosis, while the rest were admitted for other reasons and then tested positive for COVID at the hospital, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. .
Dustin Racioppi is a reporter at the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to his work covering the New Jersey Governor and the political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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