While Gov. Murphy halts reopening plans, more New Jersey schools are going ahead with returning kids to classrooms.

Citing a rise in the number of COVID mutations detected in New Jersey as well as a new strain of the virus, Murphy confirmed he is pausing plans to continue reopening New Jersey.

State health officials have confirmed more than 400 positive tests for COVID variants first discovered in the U.K., Brazil, New York City and South Africa as well as the first two cases of a mutation first detected in California. A third wave of infections, largely from these variants, has triggered a new wave of lockdowns in Europe.

While it is believed these variants are more easily transmitted, studies about their potential resistance to current vaccines is incomplete. It is because of what is not known about how these variants will impact the pandemic, that Murphy said he did not anticipate loosening more restrictions anytime soon.

Despite the rise in these mutations and the caution expressed by the governor, the number of New Jersey public schools, colleges and universities are pushing forward with reopening plans. Each week, the number of schools doing all remote learning has dropped and is now below 100 for the first time since Murphy closed all schools a year ago.

Even in the most densely populated urban centers in North Jersey, more districts are adopting at least a hybrid schedule that incudes in-class instruction. Harrison became the first school system in Hudson County to bring kids back into school buildings. The largest districts in Newark and Jersey City plan to have kids back in classrooms this spring.

While most colleges and universities have scrapped plans for mass in-person graduations in 2021, more are anticipating a return to in-person classes for the fall semester. Stockton University announced this week they expect to a normal return to housing and student activities.

For now, Murphy has not indicated he will pause school reopening, and has insisted all districts will be open in the Fall. Murphy has, however, left himself significant wiggle room going forward. After promising for months that vaccinating 70% of the adult population would trigger a full reopening of the state, Murphy is providing a caveat that could prevent that from happening.

The confirmation of the reopening pause came as New Jersey was on pace to have 4.7 million adults vaccinated by Memorial Day and fueled hopes of a normal summer season.

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