New Jersey Republican lawmakers welcome lifting of school mask mandate, but question the timing
With multiple reports coming out, starting with the New York Times, that Governor Phil Murphy will be lifting the school mask mandate on Monday starting on or around March 7, there are many who welcome the news but wonder why then and not now.
"Why is this taking so long? I'm unsure as to why March 7 is the magical date being reported out there. I'm unclear as to what that needs to be the date. I think, like everything else, Murphy has been quick to put restrictions on the people of this state but is slow to ease those restrictions," Vicky Flynn, Monmouth County Assemblywoman (R-13), tells Townsquare Media News on Monday. "I wish he would consider, maybe, making it mask optional immediately."
Assemblywoman Flynn, who prior to being elected to the NJ Legislature in the fall, was the School Board President in Holmdel, explains that if students, teachers, staff feel more comfortable wearing a mask in school, they should feel free to choose to do so.
"As a school board president, we would hear both sides of the argument. I felt, that in Monmouth County, and now, as an Assemblywoman, we are hearing more-so people -- even people who might have been in favor of masks in the past, saying, with everything that's been done -- the vaccines, the numbers going down, the omicron variant not being as severe as the other ones -- I think everyone has really looked at it and said I think we need a change, we need these kids to be in a more normal environment," Flynn said.
One of the other reasons, that Assemblywoman Flynn explains that the mask mandate in schools needs to end now, is to sharpen the focus on learning loss in the classrooms.
"I do think the public health emergency is learning loss, that students have encountered as a result of lockdowns, as a result of remote learning. I understand remote learning, in the beginning, might have been an option. I really think we needed to be quicker to get kids back to a normal school environment," Flynn said.
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State Senator Kristin Corrado (R-40) also questioned the timing and timeline of the lifting of the school mask mandate, in a statement on Monday.
“Parents want their rights to make masking decisions for their kids restored today, not next month,” Corrado said in a statement. “Governor Murphy should Give It Back now. There’s no excuse to wait any longer.”
State Senator Steve Oroho (R-24) said in a statement Monday that the lifting of the mask mandate is a victory for the recently introduced, #GiveItBack campaign, from Senate Republicans last week pushing for a return to normalcy and lifting of mandates.
“Governor Murphy will never admit that the pressure is getting to him, but it absolutely is,” Oroho said in a statement. “That’s why he rushed to make this announcement weeks before he actually plans on lifting the school mask mandate. It’s our first ‘Give It Back’ victory.”
State Senator Michael Testa (R-1) also questions why then and not now.
“While this is welcome news for students and their parents, I question the timing of the announcement by the Governor. Why isn’t the school mask mandate ending today? The answer is simple, this decision is guided by political science. If this was truly guided by ‘the science’, this arbitrary mandate would have been lifted 23 months ago, and the Governor knows that," Testa said in a statement. "I have been calling for an end to school mask mandates since last summer and the science that we had at that time supported my call."
State Senator Declan O'Scanlon, (R-13), in the same district as Assemblywoman Flynn, is glad the mandate will be lifted but feels it should be now. He's also calling for more than just mask mandates in schools to be lifted.
“This mask mandate announcement is obviously in response to the scientifically-justified, consistent pressure so many of us have been inflicting for months,” O’Scanlon said in a statement. “This action—over a policy that was dubious from the start and shown to be outright foolish and destructive months ago—is already long overdue. And it is very clearly not the only mandate removal that is long overdue. Quarantining is a nice way to say ‘banning healthy children from attending. Forcing healthy, asymptomatic kids to stay home after suspected exposures (haven't) reduced transmission in our schools. Instead, it’s cost our kids thousands of unrecoverable school days and precious experiences. Middletown has successfully demonstrated that schools can remain safe while minimizing missed days for students and maximizing the quality of education delivered to our children. Every school district across New Jersey should follow this example.”