Governor Murphy Extends Mask Mandate for New Jersey Schools

Governor Murphy Extends Mask Mandate for New Jersey Schools

On January 11, 2022, Governor Phil Murphy reinstated New Jersey’s Public Health Emergency, which became effective immediately...

On January 11, 2022, Governor Phil Murphy reinstated New Jersey’s Public Health Emergency, which became effective immediately, in response to the continued threat of COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. The new Public Health Emergency allows for existing orders requiring masking in school and daycare settings to remain in effect.

In a statement regarding the new declaration of the Public Health Emergency, Governor Murphy emphasized that the action was needed to ensure New Jersey keeps moving forward in its response against COVID.  “COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our State, and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the Omicron variant,” Governor Murphy said in a press statement. “While we hope to return to a state of normalcy as soon as possible, the step I am taking today is a commonsense measure that will protect the safety and well-being of all New Jersey residents while allowing state government to respond to the continuing threat that COVID-19 poses to our daily lives.”

Executive Orders 280 and 281

Executive Order No. 280 declares a Public Health Emergency exists and continues the existing State of Emergency across all 21 counties in New Jersey, allowing state agencies and departments to utilize state resources to assist the State’s healthcare system and help affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Executive Order No. 281 continues Executive Order Nos. 111, 112, and 207, allows Executive Order Nos. 251, 252, 253, 264, and 271 to remain in effect, and extends various regulatory actions taken by the departments in response to COVID-19.

Impact on New Jersey School Districts

Executive Order 281 extends Executive Order 253, which established vaccination or testing requirements for all preschool to grade 12 personnel. It also continues Executive Order 251, which requires masks in schools, with limited exceptions.

“Virtual learning is no replacement for in-person education, and I don’t believe there’s any argument against this,” Governor Murphy said at a briefing held on January 10. “Because we must keep our kids learning in person, I want to be clear with, - by the way, no joy- that the mask mandates in schools and daycare centers will continue at least for the foreseeable future. These requirements give us no joy, but they are the only responsible course of action at this time.”

In support for extending the school mask mandate, Executive Order 281 cites that given the evidence regarding high transmission of the Omicron variant, the CDC continues to recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors in K-12 schools and childcare settings over the age of 2 regardless of vaccination status. The Executive Order sets forth: “After consultation with the DOH, I have determined that it is necessary to continue to enforce a uniform masking policy in schools and childcare settings for teachers, staff, students, child enrollees, and visitors over the age of 2 while vaccination rates are low among a significant portion of the student population and not yet available to a significant portion of the child enrollee population.”

What’s Next?

Pursuant to the Emergency Health Powers Act, the Public Health Emergency will expire after 30 days, unless renewed by Governor Murphy. At that time, the administration plans to review State COVID-19 metrics to determine if an extension will be needed.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have legal concerns related to the Executive Orders and how they may impact your school district, we encourage you to contact John Geppert or a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Education Law Group at 201-896-4100.


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John G. Geppert represents private and public sector clients in labor and employment matters. He has extensive experience representing school boards in all facets of education law.Full Biography

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Governor Murphy Extends Mask Mandate for New Jersey Schools

Governor Murphy Extends Mask Mandate for New Jersey Schools
Author: John G. Geppert

On January 11, 2022, Governor Phil Murphy reinstated New Jersey’s Public Health Emergency, which became effective immediately, in response to the continued threat of COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. The new Public Health Emergency allows for existing orders requiring masking in school and daycare settings to remain in effect.

In a statement regarding the new declaration of the Public Health Emergency, Governor Murphy emphasized that the action was needed to ensure New Jersey keeps moving forward in its response against COVID.  “COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our State, and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the Omicron variant,” Governor Murphy said in a press statement. “While we hope to return to a state of normalcy as soon as possible, the step I am taking today is a commonsense measure that will protect the safety and well-being of all New Jersey residents while allowing state government to respond to the continuing threat that COVID-19 poses to our daily lives.”

Executive Orders 280 and 281

Executive Order No. 280 declares a Public Health Emergency exists and continues the existing State of Emergency across all 21 counties in New Jersey, allowing state agencies and departments to utilize state resources to assist the State’s healthcare system and help affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Executive Order No. 281 continues Executive Order Nos. 111, 112, and 207, allows Executive Order Nos. 251, 252, 253, 264, and 271 to remain in effect, and extends various regulatory actions taken by the departments in response to COVID-19.

Impact on New Jersey School Districts

Executive Order 281 extends Executive Order 253, which established vaccination or testing requirements for all preschool to grade 12 personnel. It also continues Executive Order 251, which requires masks in schools, with limited exceptions.

“Virtual learning is no replacement for in-person education, and I don’t believe there’s any argument against this,” Governor Murphy said at a briefing held on January 10. “Because we must keep our kids learning in person, I want to be clear with, - by the way, no joy- that the mask mandates in schools and daycare centers will continue at least for the foreseeable future. These requirements give us no joy, but they are the only responsible course of action at this time.”

In support for extending the school mask mandate, Executive Order 281 cites that given the evidence regarding high transmission of the Omicron variant, the CDC continues to recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors in K-12 schools and childcare settings over the age of 2 regardless of vaccination status. The Executive Order sets forth: “After consultation with the DOH, I have determined that it is necessary to continue to enforce a uniform masking policy in schools and childcare settings for teachers, staff, students, child enrollees, and visitors over the age of 2 while vaccination rates are low among a significant portion of the student population and not yet available to a significant portion of the child enrollee population.”

What’s Next?

Pursuant to the Emergency Health Powers Act, the Public Health Emergency will expire after 30 days, unless renewed by Governor Murphy. At that time, the administration plans to review State COVID-19 metrics to determine if an extension will be needed.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have legal concerns related to the Executive Orders and how they may impact your school district, we encourage you to contact John Geppert or a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Education Law Group at 201-896-4100.