NEW YORK, Aug.6 (Reuters) – Students and staff in Kindergarten to Grade 12 in New Jersey will be required to wear masks indoors regardless of immunization status when public schools open in the fall, a Governor Phil Murphy said on Friday, reversing his earlier position as the
The delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading.
The shift in focus from just over a month ago reflects an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations caused by the highly contagious variant, Murphy said at a press conference.
“There are issues that are and should always stay above politics, and this one is one of them,” said Murphy, a Democrat who is the only incumbent US governor to be reelected this fall.
The debate over masks in American schools reignited last month when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed the course and recommended that all students and staff wear masks in school, regardless of their immunization status.
A policy patchwork has emerged from state to state, and even city to city, around the issue that has become deeply political in the United States. Read more
In New Jersey, COVID-19 cases have increased 105% in the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis of public health data. Hospitalizations have increased 92% in the past four weeks, the data shows.
About 67% of New Jersey residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination rates in the United States vary widely from a high of 76% of Vermont residents receiving a first dose to a low of 41% in Mississippi. (Graph of vaccination rates in the United States)
States with lower vaccination rates have been hit hardest by the fast-spreading variant.
Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi accounted for half of the nation’s new cases and hospitalizations in the past week, White House officials said.
In Florida, the Board of Education passed an emergency rule on Friday that would allow parents to transfer their child to another school “when a student is harassed in response to a district’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols. school ”, including mask protocols.
Newly approved rule allows parents to transfer their children to a private school or school in another district as part of the Hope Scholarship, funding originally created to allow bullied Florida public school students to relocate in another institution.
During the emergency meeting, a parent called the rule a “moral outrage” which equated a school’s mask mandate with harassment and bullying.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, last week issued an executive order blocking terms of masks in state schools.
As of Friday morning, 13,427 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the Sunshine State, a new record, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Some Florida school districts are keeping mask mandates in place, at least for now, despite the governor’s order.
The Broward County Public School Board will meet on Tuesday to decide what to do with DeSantis’ order.
Rosalind Osgood, the chairman of the board, said she plans to vote to demand masks for students and school staff in the county, telling CNN on Friday: “I am not prepared to take a risk with the someone’s life when we have a deadly pandemic. “
Some of the largest school districts in the country, including New York and Los Angeles, have made masks mandatory for the next school year.
Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell
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