New Jersey Schools Can Forego Face Masks During Heat Wave

As a heat wave hits the Garden State this week, Gov. Phil Murphy outlined that schools have the discretion to not adhere to the coronavirus pandemic mandate of face masks for students and staff. 

“Our current masking requirements do include exceptions for cases of extreme heat in outdoor settings and for situations indoors or outdoors where wearing a mask would inhibit the individual’s health (at schools),” said Murphy at a press briefings June 7. 

Murphy has come under fire from Republicans due to keeping in place the mask mandate for schools and summer camps. Full vaccinated New Jersey residents were able to remove their masks on May 28 when entering indoor public spaces as well as outdoors. The order had some exceptions besides schools and Summer camps, including healthcare and correctional facilities, public transportation, transportation hubs, and homeless shelters.

Local Decisions

As the governor previewed a change for Summer camps and outdoor masking later this week, Murphy said school officials have the ability to alter the requirements as weather discates.  

“School officials are empowered to relax masking among students and staff in their buildings given extreme weather conditions, and we hope they will make the right calls for their educational communities,” said Murphy.

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the definition of extreme heat is being left at the discretion of the school district based on their own particular areas and what it looks like. 

Vaccination Push for Kids

“We need to just trust that they’ll do the right thing,” said Persichilli. “If the kids are suffering from excessive heat…I don’t think there’s a particular marker one way or another.”

Persichilli used the issue to urge parents to get their children vaccinated. The health commissioner noted in the most recent CDC morbidity and mortality weekly report, the rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations increased among 12 to 17 years from January through March.

“Of those hospitalized, nearly one-third required intensive care, and 5% required…ventilation,” stated the commissioner. “Thirty percent of these children had no underlying conditions that put them at greater risk of COVID-19, which demonstrated that healthy adolescents are also at risk for severe COVID-19-associated disease.” 

Communities of Color

The pandemic continues to hit communities of color hardest, with approximately two-thirds of adolescents hospitalized with COVID-19 were Hispanic or non-Hispanic black persons consistent with studies showing an increased incidence of COVID-19 among racial and ethnic minority population The CDC examined cumulative hospitalization rates for this age group and found they were three times higher than the three most recent influenza seasons. 

“We had containment measures such as school closures, wearing masks, physical distancing, none of which were enacted during past influenza seasons,” remarked Persichilli. “Without these measures, the rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations might have been substantially higher.”

In New Jersey, 856 children between ages 5 to 18 have been hospitalized since March 2020. State officials said similar to the national data, there has been an increase in the rate of hospitalized children requiring intensive care. Since the beginning of 2021, while less than 1% of 15 to 18 year olds have been hospitalized, of those who were hospitalized, 9% required intensive care. 

Vaccine Equity

“We know that hospitalization rates among adolescents were lower than those in adults,” stated Persichilli. “However, these statistics demonstrate that severe disease does occur including hospitalizations that require intensive care admissions and invasive mechanical ventilation. 

All told, the health commissioner said the data signified an urgent need to ensure equitable access to vaccines for these groups. 

“We are doing all we can to get vaccines to where people are and we need everyone with us in this work to vaccinate our residents,” said Persichilli. “Vaccines are a pathway to end this pandemic.

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 8,945,129 in-state, plus an additional 357,974 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 9,303,103 as of June 8. Of those who have received the vaccine, 4,225,943 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 169,166 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 4,396,109. 

Demographically, 54% of those vaccinated are women and 46% men. As for ethnicity, 52% are White, 14% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 8% unknown. In regards to the age of those having received the vaccine, 26% are 65 years old or olders, 28% are between the ages of 50-64, 29% are between the ages of 30-49, and 17% are between the ages of 12-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 979,639 doses (464,895 fully vaccinated), Essex 739,985 doses (345,341), Hudson 637,112 doses (292,126), Morris 581,487 doses (276,022), Passaic 453,864 doses (211,797), Sussex 135,453 doses (65,008), and Warren 88,064 doses (42,231).

Daily Data

As of June 8, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 889,255 with 200 total new PCR cases reported. There were 67 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 129,052. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,018,112. 

As for those that have passed, the state reported 11 new deaths, bringing that total to 23,616. The state listed probable deaths at 2,678, bringing the overall total to 26,294. State officials noted five deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on June 8, Bergen had a total of 15 new confirmed cases and eight new probable case, Essex 24 new cases and three new probable cases, Hudson 12 new cases and two new probable cases, Morris 13 new cases and five new probable cases, Passaic 12 new cases and one new probable case, Sussex four new cases and one new probable case, and Warren two new cases and no new probable cases.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,699, followed by Bergen at 2,574, Hudson with 2,076, Passaic at 1,728, Morris at 976, Sussex at 236, and Warren County at 211.

In regards to probable deaths reported June 2, Bergen has 298, Essex has 300, Morris has 259, Hudson has 215, Passaic has 198, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission reported June 8, it remained at  0.71 from the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of June 3, was 1.1%; by region, the rate was 1.2% in the North, 0.9% in the Central region and 1.0% in the South. 

Officials reported 415 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 218 in the North, 115 in the Central and 82 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 86 are in intensive care units and 51 on ventilators. A total of 43 patients were discharged, while 38 were admitted.

Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 89,806, followed by Middlesex at 84,837, Essex at 84,712, Hudson at 78,800, Monmouth at 67,484, Ocean at 65,673, Passaic at 65,625, Union at 60,447, Camden at 48,998, Morris at 41,888, Burlington at 38,254, Mercer at 31,635, Gloucester at 26,555, Atlantic at 24,935, Somerset at 24,287, Cumberland at 14,877, Sussex at 11,694, Warren at 8,959, Hunterdon at 8,917, Salem at 5,547, and Cape May at 4,619.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,621, followed by Union at 11,034, Ocean at 10,225, Essex at 9,483, Hudson at 9,242, Morris at 8,279, Monmouth at 8,109, Middlesex at 7,483, Passaic at 7,375, Camden at 6,686, Atlantic at 6,633, Burlington at 5,956, Somerset at 5,772, Cape May at 4,584, Gloucester at 4,017, Mercer at 2,412, Sussex at 2,314, Cumberland at 2,268, Warren at 1,027, Hunterdon at 896, and Salem 541.

Another 716 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 83 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 2,125 of the cases, broken down between 849 residents and 1,276 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,471 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,758 residents and 22,225 staff, for a total of 54,983. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,058 on June 8. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,869 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.


  1. If there isn’t enough ventilation in the schools to make the heat tolerable, how does just taking the masks off help? Maybe a half day.. so they are out of school during the hottest part of the day instead of making them vulnerable to the virus! The majority of students are not vaccinated. Those under 12 none are not vaccinated at all, and the virus, though diminishing in the population, is still potent and out there.

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