Even as COVID cases continue to rise in New Jersey, the Paterson School District is making masks optional in all school buildings and classrooms.

The Paterson Board of Education met Wednesday night and voted to remove the mask mandate. Paterson was among a handful of districts that kept the mandate in place after Gov. Phil Murphy lifted statewide regulations March 7.

"The Board of Education has come to their decision after long and careful consideration,” said Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer in a statement. "They have considered the data and the latest guidance from public health officials."

New Jersey is continuing to see a steady rise in the number of new positive COVID tests. The spot positivity rate is the highest it has been since January, at 12.45%. The rate of transmission is 1.22.

Passaic County is one of seven of New Jersey's 21 counties where community transmission rates remain low. The spot positive rate for Passaic County is 9.8%, up 2.44% in the last week.

Local health officials briefed Paterson School Board members on county and local trends before the vote.

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Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not call for universal masking until community transmission is "high."

Shafer says despite lifting the mask mandate for students and staff, other precautions remain in place, "including the use of air blasters and air purifiers in every room, frequent handwashing, social distancing, temperature scanning, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick."

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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