It has been a prime focal point of anger and disagreement in New Jersey for more than a year but the bickering is finally ending.

Effective Monday morning, the school mask mandate in the Garden State is being lifted, and school district leaders will have the option to allow students, teachers and support staff to take their face coverings off in school buildings and on school buses.

During the final regularly scheduled COVID update held Friday in Trenton, Gov. Phil Murphy said while all of the COVID metrics continue to move in the right direction, education officials should still stay focused and be aware of any possible flare-ups of the virus.

Use common sense on mask mandates

Murphy told them “use your judgment, use your common sense, and prepare for the fact that there may be a bad turn.”


The governor pointed out even as the pandemic continues to wind down, COVID flare-ups may occur in different areas, “which is why we’ve given them, the districts, the flexibility."

We don't know what we don't know

Murphy stressed it’s important for school officials and everyone else in the state to have “a willingness to accept that we don’t know all that we don’t know on this thing and we will try to navigate this together.”

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said her message to education leaders is “be vigilant, resilient, pay attention to the Department of Health’s communications and recommendations, and stay in close contact with your local health department.”

She also noted everyone needs to remember “it is likely we will continue to have surges in COVID-19 activity, so it will be important that we all continue to be aware of the activity levels and adjust our behaviors accordingly.”

The governor said even though cases and hospitalizations are dropping and the mask mandate is being lifted that doesn’t mean COVID is gone.

“We think we can responsibly live with COVID, but an endemic means it remains in our midst,” he said.

The war against COVID isn't over

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the New Jersey Health Department, said just because the mask mandate is being lifted on Monday, “that doesn’t mean we’re putting out a sign that says mission accomplished and the virus is gone and it’s not going to cause us any issues or problems down the road.”

Murphy announced one month ago that based on the dramatic drop in omicron cases and hospitalizations, the school mask mandate would end March 7.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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