Mask on/Mask off – NJ schools and others still deciding
With the end to Gov. Phil Murphy's controversial school mask mandate just 18 days away, schools districts and public and private schools are dealing with the mandate differently.
The vast majority of public K-12 schools have already decided they will allow masks to be optional for both students and staff.
There have been exceptions. Newark, Plainfield, Hillside and Camden are among the districts that will still require anyone entering a school building to mask-up.
All schools in the Newark Archdiocese will allow their mask mandates to expire on March 7. Masks will remain optional for students and staff.
Parents have been notified that kids are still required to mask-up on school busses as per federal mandates. That mandate applies to all school students who take the bus to school in New Jersey.
Higher education schools, meanwhile, are also determining how they will handle mask and vaccine requirements going forward.
Nearly every college and university in New Jersey requires full vaccination to attend in-person classes or participate in extra curricular activities on campus. Some have required proof of a booster shot. Many have announced masks will be required when students gather indoors.
Sussex County Community College is one of the few schools that did not impose a vaccine requirement on students.
College president Jon Connolly posted a video to YouTube explaining why the mask mandate was still being required.
"That (masks) is a critical portion of keeping people safe," Connolly said, even while acknowledging a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Sussex County.
Masks will not be required outdoors or when students are eating or drinking indoors.
Where are masks still required?
In general, mask rules have been relaxed in most public and private settings, but are still required in some.
Masks remain the rule in healthcare settings, including hospitals, urgent care, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Public transportation, including trains and busses, require passengers and employees to wear a mask.
You still have to wear a mask to enter a New Jersey Motor Vehicle agency and in state and federal government buildings.
Some municipalities are also still requiring masks in most indoor settings, including the City of Newark.
Sports and entertainment venues have been setting their own rules. Most indoor locations have a mask requirement, including the Prudential Center in Newark. Masks are less common in outdoor venues, like MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce new guidance for masking as early as next week. Several national media outlets reported the new guidance will be linked to levels of severe disease and hospitalizations on a community level.