PATERSON — District officials have announced that starting Tuesday, Jan. 17, all public schools will go mask-optional for students, teachers, staff, and visitors.

A letter from schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer to staff and parents sent on Friday said her decision to make masks optional again is based on district data, data from St. Joseph’s University Medical Center, and consultation with the City of Paterson’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Paul Persaud.

The data has shown a downward trend in COVID-19 cases both within the district and throughout Passaic County.

“Since we returned from the holiday break, the district has gone from 32 total COVID-19 cases in a single day on Tuesday, January 3., to four total cases yesterday, Thursday, January 12,” wrote Shafer.

She reminded everyone that the pandemic is not over.

In addition, she said the school district remains susceptible to the flu virus and the respiratory syncytial virus.

Therefore, respect anyone who chooses to wear a mask in a school or a district building, she wrote.

Everyone should continue taking necessary precautions to guard against infection including frequent hand washing, avoiding large gatherings, monitoring symptoms, and staying home when sick.

District officials will continue to monitor transmission rates and the number of COVID-19 cases daily.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at

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