No face masks for school children to guard against the spread of the coronavirus will be required at the beginning of the next school year in New Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement as the New Jersey Department of Education released their guidance to local school districts in operating procedures dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Absent any dramatic change in our situation before the beginning of the school year, masking by students while in their school buildings will not be mandatory,” said Murphy during a zoom press briefing on June 28.
Murphy said a school district can require masking as part of its own protocols and anyone should feel free to wear a mask without bullying or repercussions. The decision comes as state officials anticipate updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the wearing of masks before the new school year starts.
The governor again reiterated that “all schools must prepare to open for full-time, in-person instruction. The guidance being released today is to ensure this happens.”
Acting Education Commissioner Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan presented three different guidance for local officials getting ready for the 2021/2022 school year—health and safety recommendations that provide strategies to reduce risks to students and staff from COVID-19, while still prioritizing full-time, in-person learning; a self-assessment of district readiness to accelerate learning and to provide supportive school climates; and a compilation of specific, research-backed priorities and practices to accelerate learning.
“I am hopeful that these resources will empower our school communities to return all students safely to the classroom and ensure that all students, regardless of zip code or circumstance, receive a high-quality education that empowers them to compete for educational and work opportunities in the increasingly global marketplace,” said Allen-McMillan.
The strategies and procedures outlined for health protocols include maintaining physical distance between students to the extent practicable; putting procedures in place to identify and respond to a student or staff member who becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms; and resources on COVID-19 transmission, prevention, and control measures and to establish procedures for notification and response to illness.
The acting commissioner stressed schools should maintain transparent and ongoing communication, as appropriate, with their staff, students, and caregivers regarding school operations and health and safety information.
Helping Learning Loss
The self-assessment tool will allow for school districts to develop and implement interventions needed to transition to full time, in-person learning. The self-assessment provides guiding questions and resources in various topics, including learning acceleration, supporting the social-emotional needs of students and educators, attendance, discipline, support for student subgroups, and districts’ financial obligations.
Additionally, DOE is releasing a guidance document that will complement the self-assessment by providing specific research based principles and strategies to accelerate learning and prepare students for the new school year. This resource is designed not only to help recover from COVID-19, but as a long-term, comprehensive framework that anchors districts’ academic, social, and behavioral interventions to the common purpose of promoting global competitiveness for all students.
“We anticipate updating this guidance as information becomes available,” said Allen-McMillan.
Going Back Full Time
State officials continue to push that the best tool to fight the coronavirus is to get vaccinated.
“While this guidance will help schools plan for Fall, the best way to keep schools open and safe is to get vaccinated,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, who noted the CDC guidance is still a month away. “Now is the time for parents of children between the ages of 12 and 17 to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment to allow enough time for that second shot before school starts.”
Murphy stresses that the recommendations released provide school districts with a roadmap to bring students and staff safely back to school.
“This guidance will help districts and educators develop plans to meet their student’s educational, social, emotional and mental health needs,” said Murphy. “Our students and educators have displayed amazing resiliency during the pandemic, and I am pleased that the upcoming school year will provide a sense of normalcy that students haven’t had since March 2020.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 9,639,225 in-state, plus an additional 520,168 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 10,213,393 as of June 28. Of those who have received the vaccine, 4,718,553 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 229,705 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 4,948,258.
Demographically, 53% of those vaccinated are women and 46% men. As for ethnicity, 50% are White, 15% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 8% unknown. In regards to the age of those having received the vaccine, 25% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 29% are between the ages of 30-49, and 19% are between the ages of 12-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,068,135 doses (522,684 fully vaccinated), Essex 808,774 doses (389,780), Hudson 706,308 doses (335,367), Morris 619,141 doses (301,549), Passaic 502,656 doses (242,471), Sussex 144,607 doses (71,315), and Warren 92,432 doses (45,836).
As of June 28, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 892,713 with 105 total new PCR cases reported. There were 47 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 130,264. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,022,977.
As for those that have passed, the state reported four new deaths, bringing that total to 23,740. The state listed probable deaths at 2,698, bringing the overall total to 26,438. State officials noted one death occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that has not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on June 28, Bergen had a total of nine new confirmed cases and four new probable case, Essex six new cases and two new probable cases, Hudson five new cases and five new probable cases, Morris four new cases and five new probable cases, Passaic seven new cases and no new probable cases, Sussex no new cases and no new probable cases, and Warren had three new case and two new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,720, followed by Bergen at 2,586, Hudson with 2,085, Passaic at 1,735, Morris at 978, Sussex at 239, and Warren County at 211.
In regards to probable deaths reported June 23, Essex has 302, Bergen has 299, Morris has 261, Hudson has 216, Passaic has 200, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
As for the rate of transmission reported June 28, it declined to 0.92 from 0.93 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested June 24 was 1.0%; by region, the rate was 0.9% in the North, 1.3% in the Central region and 0.9% in the South.
Officials reported 304 patients were hospitalized; 230 cases were confirmed and 74 are under investigation. Of those hospitalized, 57 are in intensive care units and 29 on ventilators. A total of 30 patients were discharged, while 31 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 90,168, followed by Middlesex at 85,146, Essex at 84,903, Hudson at 79,046, Monmouth at 67,858, Ocean at 66,005, Passaic at 65,936, Union at 60,635, Camden at 49,156, Morris at 42,048, Burlington at 38,382, Mercer at 31,750, Gloucester at 26,650, Atlantic at 25,002, Somerset at 24,402, Cumberland at 14,935, Sussex at 11,764, Warren at 8,997, Hunterdon at 8,979, Salem at 5,574, and Cape May at 4,656.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,753, followed by Union at 11,106, Ocean at 10,412, Essex at 9,591, Hudson at 9,326, Morris at 8,327, Monmouth at 8,180, Middlesex at 7,555, Passaic at 7,448, Camden at 6,755, Atlantic at 6,653, Burlington at 6,007, Somerset at 5,831, Cape May at 4,632, Gloucester at 4,046, Mercer at 2,436, Sussex at 2,344, Cumberland at 2,289, Warren at 1,034, Hunterdon at 905, and Salem 538.
Another 721 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 27 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 599 of the cases, broken down between 227 residents and 372 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,482 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,847 residents and 22,255 staff, for a total of 55,102.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,062 on June 28. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,891 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.