In announcing that the state will release 6 million face masks to New Jersey school districts to hand out to students and staff as the new scholastic year begins, Gov. Phil Murphy forcefully stated the mask mandate is not to be ignored.
“I remind those district leaders who continue to want to make what is a matter of public health into something political that our in-school masking policy is not a polite suggestion,” said Murphy at a press briefing Aug. 30. “I would remind those who continue to oppose public safety and common sense that this is no time for selfishness or political posturing.”
“This is the time for…putting our schools on the best possible footing with regard to providing full-time, in-person instruction and protecting public health, period.”
The comments by Murphy were his first public comments after signing an executive order blocking schools from circumventing the school mask mandate. The order stated that “individuals seeking a medical exemption from mask wearing…will be required to produce written documentation from a medical professional to support that exemption. Self-attestations and parental attestations are not sufficient.”
“This is a mask mandate in schools,” said Murphy at the press briefing. “This is not mom or dad writing a note saying Johnny or Sally doesn’t want to wear one. Any excuse needs to be from a medical professional, verifiably so.”
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The directive comes in response to school districts that have sent Murphy letters asking to leave the decision up to local towns to decide. Parents opposed to the rule have demanded the school board to take whatever action it can to stop it, with “Unmask Our Kids” signs a regular site at meetings and front lawns. But Murphy noted a recent poll showed they are in the minority as nearly two-thirds of Garden State resident support masks at schools.
Working With Local Districts
“The good news is we’ve had a few back-and-forths with a few districts, and I have to say overwhelmingly…our deliberations with the districts, even if they didn’t start in a place that we liked, have been at least up til now have ended up in a good place,” reported the governor.
But Murphy reiterated the requirement is moving forward and local school districts are to adhere to the order.
“We do not and will not take lightly to any district or any school who tries to finagle their way out of their responsibility for protecting public health,” warned the governor. “Let’s just be perfectly clear that if you try to do so, you’re only putting your students, educators, support staff, administrators, and everyone else in your school, plus by the way, your families, their families, and your communities all at risk.”
Mask Offer from State
Murphy said he has been heartened that the “overwhelming majority” of residents support the mask mandate. To that end, the state’s Office of Emergency Management identified approximately 6 million K-N95 and surgical masks along with roughly 500,000 child-sized masks that will be made available to districts on an as-needed basis for students or staff who might forget, damage, or misplace their own masks.
“We will make these masks available to districts at no charge, and we invite all public school districts and non-public schools to request any masks that they may need,” said Murphy.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 11,106,462 in-state, plus an additional 405,030 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 11,511,492 as of Aug. 31. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,409,997 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 174,999 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,584,996.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,247,731 doses (610,263 fully vaccinated), Essex 954,271 doses (457,912), Hudson 868,220 doses (416,301), Morris 680,166 doses (331,680), Passaic 593,782 doses (286,076), Sussex 159,484 doses (78,898), and Warren 103,725 doses (50,801).
As of Aug. 31, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 951,803 with 1,642 total new PCR cases reported. There were 610 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 140,163. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,091,966.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 19 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 24,151. The state listed probable deaths at 2,731, for an overall total to 26,882. State officials noted 11 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Aug. 31, Bergen had a total of 157 new confirmed cases and 40 new probable cases, Essex 170 new cases and 42 new probable case, Hudson 85 new cases and 23 new probable cases, Morris 67 new confirmed cases and 43 new probable cases, Passaic 92 new cases and 20 new probable case, Sussex 18 new cases and eight new probable cases, and Warren 18 new cases and two new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,768, followed by Bergen at 2,616, Hudson with 2,124, Passaic at 1,758, Morris at 990, Sussex at 245, and Warren County at 217.
In regards to probable deaths reported Aug. 30, Essex has 306, Bergen has 304, Morris has 260, Hudson has 222, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,175,016 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Aug. 15, 12,242 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 307 COVID-related hospitalizations and 68 COVID-related deaths.
In the last week, breakthroughs accounted for 12.5% of all new cases (1,637 of 13,118), 3.8% of new hospilizations (31 of 807), and none of the 36 deaths—the fourth week in a row of no deaths from those fully vaccinated.
As for the rate of transmission reported Aug. 31, it remained at 1.11 for the second day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested Aug. 26 was 5.2%; by region, the rate was 4.6% in the North, 5.3% in the Central region and 6.2% in the South.
The state reported 1,067 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 414 in the North, 309 in the Central and 344 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 221 are in intensive care units and 110 on ventilators. A total of 89 patients were discharged.
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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 135 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 877 of the cases, broken down between 466 residents and 411 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,638 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,284 residents and 22,660 staff, for a total of 55,944.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,467 on Aug. 31. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,909 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.