New Jersey and Delaware set timelines for the end of school mask mandates

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will announce Monday a timeline to end the state’s school mask mandate next month, his office told CNN. The policy will allow students and school officials to be unmasked as of March, two years after the pandemic gripped the country and the region.
Murphy first spoke to the New York Times about his planned announcement. The governor and officials are scheduled to hold a 1 p.m. coronavirus briefing Monday.

Similarly, Delaware Gov. John Carney announced that the state’s universal indoor mask mandate will end on February 11 and that school mask mandates will expire March 31.

“We’re in a much better place than we were several weeks ago in the middle of the Omicron surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Carney said.

“I want to be clear about this point — COVID is still circulating in our communities. And the virus still poses a risk of serious illness, particularly among those who are not up to date on their vaccinations,” he added. “But we have the tools to keep ourselves and each other safe.”

The decisions to end school mask mandates reflect the shifting tide on mask politics and frustration with continued Covid-related restrictions two years into the pandemic.

In November, Murphy narrowly won reelection in the blue state by winning 51% of the vote, a warning sign for his and other Democratic leaders’ commitments to mask and vaccine mandates.
The Biden administration has not offered a plan or roadmap for how states should handle the transition out of the Covid-19 emergency into a greater sense of normalcy.
How the Omicron variant ignited new battles and changed pandemic politics
Many states led by Republican leaders never instituted school mask mandates or have rescinded them. The rapid decline of the Omicron variant over the past few weeks has also made states more comfortable dropping mask requirements.
Masks have been shown to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in crowded indoor spaces. Still, they can be uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time and can hinder communication. In addition, although anyone can spread the virus to others, children and young people are at much lower risk of severe illness and death from the virus than older people — particularly if they have been vaccinated.
As of now, New Jersey does not require face masks in most outdoor and indoor settings, but masks are required in high-risk areas such as schools, hospitals, public transit, child care centers, correctional facilities and homeless shelters, according to the state.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools remain open for in-person instruction and that all students, staff, teachers and visitors wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.

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