NJ’s school, daycare mask requirement to stay in effect
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Masks in New Jersey’s schools and daycares will continue to be required as a COVID-19 precaution despite a looming expiration, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
Murphy, a Democrat, announced the decision at a news conference, saying that the requirement brings him “no joy,” and adding that it’s necessary given the record number of cases and increasing hospitalizations.
The governor did not specify how much longer the mandate would be in place or say how he planned to continue it, whether by executive order or as part of a legislative deal with lawmakers.
The prospect for a deal with lawmakers seemed to dim later Monday, when Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, said legislators weren’t told about Murphy’s plans. He seemed to scuttle the chance for legislation to extend a deadline. It’s unclear how that could affect the governor’s plans.
“We were not informed of them taking this action today and we will not move these resolutions today,” Sweeney said.
The Democrat-led Legislature had been considering a bill Monday — the final day before the new legislative session starts Tuesday — that would permit some expiring orders and waivers that expire Tuesday to be continued for 45 days.
Murphy said earlier he was in discussions with legislators but declined to go into detail. The governor had initially requested a 90-day extension of the orders, but the final bill has halved that time. It’s unclear whether the governor will support it if it comes to his desk.
Republican lawmakers derided Murphy’s decision to continue the order.
State Sen. Holly Schepisi said during a floor debate Monday that lawmakers were not being treated as a coequal branch of government because of what she called the governor’s unilateral decision to extend the mask requirement.
State Sen. Michael Testa said lawmakers were not adequately part of the conversation and needed to be included more in COVID-19 policy.
“The governor’s office has moved the goal posts so many times we’re not even playing the same sport,” Testa said.
The expiration date comes as part of a June law Murphy signed that aimed at ending public health emergency measures. But Murphy requested lawmakers extend the deadline on New Year’s Day, pointing to the super-contagious omicron variant that’s shattering COVID-19 infection records.