Several Democratic governors have announced that they are ending their states’ school mask mandates.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday hea statewide mask requirement in schools and child care centers effective March 7. From the first week of January to the last week of the month, new student cases in New Jersey dropped by nearly 80% and new staff cases were down by more than 83%
“We’re not going to manage COVID to zero. We have to learn how to live with COVID,” Murphy said.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced that his state’s school mask mandate will end on February 28.
New York has yet to announce if it will do the same. Its mandate will expire this week and Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to make an announcement Wednesday about possibly ending it completely.
Nationwide, the number of new COVID-19 cases is in decline, with the seven-day national average more than 60% lower than January’s peak. The drop in cases has some health experts are suggesting it might be time to ease some restrictions, especially with tools like vaccines available.
But many parents are still concerned since only about 22% of children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated.
“It seems to be a recipe for disaster, sending them in without masks on,” Sabila Kahn told CBS News.
Kahn’s two children are first and fourth graders at public school in Jersey City, New Jersey. She thinks schools should wait before removing mask mandates.
Dr. Carol Vidal, a child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, said it is time for students to take off their masks because so many have fallen behind.
“It’s really hard to measure right now the effects of masking all the time. I would expect that we would find that it’s going to be causing harmful effects because we are not designed to communicate with masks,” said Vidal.
But for Kahn, whose children lost their grandfather to the virus in 2020, the threat of COVID outweighs those risks.
“I’m much more concerned about their mental health as it relates to COVID loss and their stresses around COVID,” she said.
The decision of whether or not to require masks is up to each school district. The CDC’s current guidelines still recommend masks for all school students, teachers and staff. The White House said Monday it supports the CDC’s guidelines but reiterated that the decision is up to the districts, which has led to a patchwork of rules throughout the pandemic.