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Mask Up for Student Health

Read the opinion-editorial in TAPinto Jersey City.

By Shrutee Behera and Sade Peña, 2022 Governor's STEM Scholars

Earlier this month, New Jersey’s statewide mask mandate for K-12 students was lifted. Two years into the global COVID-19 pandemic, this last line of defense to protect New Jersey’s 1.25 million public school students no longer exists. As a result, student safety has been severely compromised.

Throughout the pandemic, New Jersey school districts have implemented several tools to protect students from the rampant spread of COVID-19 within schools and classrooms: remote learning, quarantining, vaccines, and masking.

Earlier this year, COVID-19 cases spiked as the Omicron variant spread through New Jersey schools. In the three weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break, New Jersey schools saw a 155 percent increase in student cases, according to While schools claimed to be using all the tools available to them, more than a quarter of a million NJ school-aged kids tested positive for COVID-19, with more than 100,000 since the beginning of the school year.

After over a year online, as students returned to in-person learning in the fall of 2021, the New Jersey Department of Education reports that nearly 1000 NJ schools went remote once again with the rise of COVID cases after winter break this year. The remote session was much too short and kids were brought to school before the latest COVID wave had passed, putting students in danger of contracting the virus again.

Additionally, the practice of quarantining has been severely reduced, diluting its effectiveness. In January, at the height of the Omicron surge, CDC guidelines changed to reduce quarantining to only 5 days for students and staff. This is a far cry from the 14 days originally recommended. These guidelines allow those who are vaccinated to not quarantine at all. Since those vaccinated against COVID can still act as carriers for the virus, we find this to be a very dangerous practice.