The state issued updated instructions for their schools and children’s centers as they prepare for the abolition of the universal mask mandate on 7 March.
A year and seven months have passed since a decree signed by Gov. Phil Murphy requiring masks to be worn on school premises to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now school officials will have to follow the recommendations and make the necessary decisions at the local level.
New recommendations or recommendations from the state Department of Health underscore caution as the state leaves mask decisions to school districts. They give districts the opportunity to change camouflage policies and restore camouflage requirements in consultation with local health departments in the event of an increase in infection. Districts are prohibited from prohibiting students from wearing masks.
The recommendations state that the mask mandate is revoked, even if the Universal Disguise Centers’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remains valid, saying, “Circumstances in New Jersey have improved to such an extent that loosening universal mask rules in K-12 schools may to happen ”.
According to the new guide, schools that have decided to revoke the mandate for masks must temporarily renew it if the spread of the virus in the community is high, or if the municipality CALI (COVID-19 Activity Level Index) the mark is red or orange.
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Schools should require masks during active outbreaks that occur at the school, according to instructions that recommend counties also check students during outbreaks. An outbreak is when at least three cases can be traced in a school setting and not related to exposure at home or elsewhere.
Students and staff should wear masks upon returning to school after quarantine or isolation, or if they develop COVID-19 symptoms while in school. They should also wear masks when they participate in Test-To-Stay programs, according to a guide released Wednesday.
According to current CDC guidelines, masks should not be worn outdoors, including during sports and physical education, but should be worn upon return from five days of isolation and quarantine for 6-10 days at school. If students or staff are unable to wear masks when they return to school, they must remain at home for the entire 10-day period. They can return to school earlier, on the eighth day, if they have a negative test result after the first five days.
Mask requirements can be restored during exercise if CALI scores are yellow and there is a risk of transmission with increased exhalation that occurs during strenuous activity, the instructions said.
In response to new instructions and the imminent expiration of the mask mandate, local school districts have developed their own COVID policies.
Officials at Pennsauken Schools in South Jersey have said they will masks are optional and no longer conduct contact tracking for positive events in their schools. The county also does not include boosters as criteria for determining quarantine terms for students and staff, but only considers whether or not they are fully vaccinated.
However, state recommendations are in line with the CDC and recommend boosters as an additional requirement to stay in school after exposure to the virus. Pfizer boosters are available for students ages 12 to 17.
“This has opened the door for some school districts to overturn other health mitigation strategies, and this is a cause for concern,” said Robin Cogan, a school nurse in Camden County and a member of the New Jersey School Nurses Association. School nurses have been central to anti-COVID districts, often interpreting and implementing policies.
The recommendations specify that children with developmental disabilities or medical problems may not automatically wear masks if their school requires it. Schools, the instructions say, should evaluate these situations on a case-by-case basis.
Masks will still be required on school buses to comply with federal orders.
The state’s approach to handling quarantine and social distancing in schools after the abolition of mandates will be “work,” Murphy said Wednesday. This could include “one-sided halls” and “partitions,” he said.
State Commissioner for Health Judy Persikili said schools should make decisions about school-wide mask policy after consulting with local health departments. Schools should also consider how effectively they can implement other COVID-19 mitigation strategies, including how well they can maintain physical distance, test and survey students, track contacts, ventilate their buildings, and enforce quarantine and isolation policies. instructions. He asks schools to consider the number of vaccinations among staff and students when making disguise decisions.
The guide removes some exceptions that benefit students in schools with universal camouflage. In the future, students without masks will be considered “close contact” with an infected child if they were 3-6 feet apart, if the school will not be able to easily determine whether both students were in masks before they were exposed. This does not apply to students in schools where the mask mandate will remain.
So far, this has been stated by the school districts of Patterson, Newark, Hillside and Plainfield will retain the mandate for the mask.
Individuals and parents can also choose to have their children wear masks if they have health problems.
Transparent masks that securely cover the nose and mouth are also an option for teachers when working with young students, children who are learning to read or speak English, and children who have speech or hearing problems or disabilities. opportunities.
A month ago, Murphy announced that he would cancel the mandate for masks, saying he wanted to give schools time to plan for change, as the pandemic is approaching an endemic phase and is less life-threatening. He then said his decision was conditional a drop in hospitalizations, an increase in vaccinations and a decrease in omicron-related infections after an unprecedented surge in December and early January.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers ’union, issued a statement in which it barely supported Murphy’s move to lift the mandate, saying it was“ cautiously optimistic ”that the mask rules could be“ safely relaxed ”. Meanwhile across the state, parents on both sides of the mask debate advocated maintaining or removing masks in schools.
A clear sign that the virus is no longer a major concern, Murphy said his weekly and sometimes twice-weekly COVID briefings would end next Friday.
Mary Ann Corut covers education for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about New Jersey schools and how it affects your children, sign up or activate your digital account today.