NJ students K-12 to wear masks, governor to announce

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Gov. Phil Murphy is set to announce that New Jersey students from kindergarten to 12th grade will be required to wear masks in schools when the new year begins in a few weeks

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey students from kindergarten to 12th grade will be required to wear masks in schools when the new year begins in a few weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy is set to announce Friday as COVID-19 cases rise in the state.

Murphy, a Democrat seeking reelection this year, will formally announce the decision Friday, according to spokesperson Mahen Gunaratna.

The decision to require masks is an about-face from just a few weeks ago when Murphy said it would take a “deterioration” of COVID-19 data to require masks.

The state’s figures, like many across the country, have been trending up in recent weeks. The seven-day rolling average of new cases climbed over the past two weeks from 512 on July 20 to 1,104 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The surging figures are part of a nationwide struggle with the contagious delta variant, which has been leading — along with vaccination holdouts — to higher hospitalization rates across the country.

Unlike other places in the country, though, New Jersey’s vaccination rate is among the highest in the nation. Nationwide, the percentage of adults fully vaccinated against COVID-19 stands at nearly 61%. In New Jersey, the rate is 71%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Jersey was an early hotspot in March 2020, and the state’s positive cases and hospitalizations haven’t reached the high levels they did early on in the outbreak, but they’re higher than they were a few months ago as vaccinations became more widely available.

The first-term governor’s decision comes amid some pushback against masks in schools, particularly among some Republicans and parents who worry about the effects masks could have on their children’s psychological and physical health.

Earlier this week, Murphy argued back with protesters skeptical about vaccinations at a public event. “You’ve lost your minds,” Murphy said, “You are the ultimate knuckleheads.”

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