Pediatric COVID Cases Rise, But No Change in NJ Mask Mandate

by Russ Crespolini, Patch Staff

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to story: https://patch.com/new-jersey/across-nj/s/holtk/pediatric-covid-cases-rise-no-change-nj-mask-mandate

The Garden State has seen a rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases according to recent Department of Health Data, but that has not altered Gov. Phil Murphy’s stance on mask mandates—for now.

“We continue to be comfortable where we are,” Murphy said during last Monday’s COVID-19 briefing. “We watch this like a hawk. I don’t want to go back, but if we think that’s the right thing to do, we’ll do what the public health experts suggest.”

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted that the rate of positive test results has risen for children up to age 13. The rise was most pronounced in children 4 and under, she said.

This plays into the narrative Murphy the pandemic has been a pandemic among the unvaccinated. Monday, the state also shared data on vaccine efficacy and breakthrough cases.

Persichilli said overall cases, the rate of hospitalization and the percentage of patients in intensive care has remained low.

At the end of June Murphy made the announcement as the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) announced updated health and safety guidelines for the upcoming school year, in which all districts will be required to provide full-time, in-person learning with no remote option.

“The recommendations we are releasing today will provide school districts with a roadmap to bring students and staff back to safe, enriching school environments,” Murphy said at the time. “This guidance will help districts and educators develop plans to meet their student’s educational, social, emotional and mental health needs. Our students and educators have displayed amazing resiliency during the pandemic, and I am pleased that the upcoming school year will provide a sense of normalcy that students haven’t had since March 2020.”

Anyone who is comfortable wearing masks will be able to do so, Murphy added. He also said that the state anticipates updated guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) later this summer. The state will consider any updates from the federal agency ahead of the first day of the new school year.

In late May, Murphy had said that New Jersey students and staff likely still be wearing masks when the next school year starts in September while offer wiggle room for high school students and others who already have been vaccinated.

At that time, Murphy did note that most high schoolers will have been long vaccinated by the time the fall arrives because those 16 and older have been able to get vaccinated since the start.

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