New Jersey

NJ Keeps School Mask Mandate as Largest City Enforces Vax Requirement

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Masks in New Jersey’s schools and daycares will continue to be required as a COVID-19 precaution despite a looming expiration, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

Murphy, a Democrat, announced the decision at a news conference, saying that the requirement brings him “no joy,” and adding that it’s necessary given the record number of cases and increasing hospitalizations.

The governor did not specify how much longer the mandate would be in place or say how he planned to continue it, whether by executive order or as part of a legislative deal with lawmakers.

The Democrat-led Legislature was considering a bill Monday — the final day before the new legislative session starts on Tuesday — that would permit some expiring orders and waivers that expire on Tuesday to be continued for 45 days.

Murphy said he was in discussions with legislators but declined to go into detail. The governor had initially requested a 90-day extension of the orders, but the final bill has halved the time. It’s unclear whether the governor will support it if it comes to his desk.

New Jersey’s largest city implemented a new mask order on the same day state infections neared an 11-month high for a fifth day in a row. Tracie Strahan reports.

The expiration date comes as part of a June law Murphy had signed aimed at ending public health emergency measures. But Murphy, pointing to the omicron variant, requested lawmakers extend the deadline on New Year’s Day.

Monday also marked the start of a new vaccine requirement for the state's largest city.

Anyone five years and older entering indoor businesses and facilities in Newark must provide proof of vaccination effective Jan. 10, the mayor announced. Masks are also required while indoors for everyone over the age of two.

“We know that the vaccine is another form of protection and although it may not stop someone from contracting the virus, it can keep you from being hospitalized," Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement.

The city's vaccine mandate includes bars and restaurants, entertainment venues and reactional facilities, among other settings stipulated in the mayor's executive order.

"We will continue to be guided by data, and will continue to do what is necessary to prevent further spread to protect the people of Newark, those who work here, and visit," Baraka added.

The order will be reviewed on Feb. 1.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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