February 25, 2022: Commissioner for Health Judy Persicili (above) and Acting Commissioner for Education Angelica Allen-McMillan at a virtual briefing on updated recommendations for public schools related to COVID-19

Questions emerged quickly during the Zoom hour call, the first opportunity in months for school overseers, nurses and other New Jersey staff to speak directly to health officials about what is being asked of them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s public schools were at a turning point, and 10 days later the law on wearing masks from the state stopped. Friday morning’s call came three days later leadership came from the State Department of Health, which was to fill in the details.

But after a short presentation with instructions, there were many more questions, over 40 questions and answers: What about a student who is fragile? Does home testing count toward state indicators that determine whether to wear a mask? What about metrics for tracking contacts?

And just as interesting was the chat, launched a commentary on how unpleasant and difficult the task will be for schools if they follow the instructions, which are not mandatory, but still difficult.

“If we have an optional mask plan, then those further than three feet don’t need to be quarantined, or is it within six feet without masks?” Asked one of Maurice County’s chief nurses.

“Are these recommendations or requirements for contact tracking?” Asked another. “School nurses performed the vast majority of contact tracking rather than the local health department, so if there are no masks, contact tracking can be a big deal with an outbreak, even before COVID.”

Local solutions

One seemed to be speaking for many in the hall: “Recommendations plus reality equals confusion and inconsistency.”

On-call officials – state health and education commissioners, as well as their chief assistants – addressed issues as best they could, often passing them on to others and, in many cases, ultimately stating that this would be decided by local schools and health officials . to decide.

One question was asked several times: can a teacher with a weakened immune system demand masks from students in the classroom.

State Commissioner for Health Judy Persicili responded first: “Any person who is compromised or at risk should disguise … As for the person [class] This is a requirement, I will have to ask for help from the Ministry of Health. ”

Acting State Commissioner for Education Angelica Allen-McMillan passed the matter to her Special Assistant Chris Huber. “It’s really a local decision that needs to be made with the administration,” he said.

It was a common refrain in many government officials ’responses: these are recommendations, not requirements. But in stating their words, they adhered to details that did not hide their preferences so that schools would retain as many guarantees as possible.

“These recommendations are very encouraging,” Peach said.

“This is the difference between ‘possible’ and ‘necessary’,” added Dr Edward Lifshitz, director of the Public Service for Infectious Diseases. “Once the mandate is over, you no longer have to … But whether we find it profitable, in some cases it is certainly appropriate.”

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