Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told CNBC on Monday he’s hopeful the state’s school mask mandate will remain a policy of the past, suggesting it’s part of a shift toward living “responsibly” with the coronavirus as a risk in society.
Murphy’s comments in a “Squawk Box” interview coincided with the official end to New Jersey’s universal face-covering requirement in schools. Murphy set Monday as the expiration date in early February, citing a drop in Covid cases and hospitalizations, along with increasing vaccinations among students.
“Can I say that they’re done forever? I don’t think anyone can say that for sure. I certainly hope we’re done forever,” Murphy said, acknowledging the difficulties of predicting future Covid variants and transmission.
“But it feels very much like we are on that road from pandemic to endemic, that we’ll be able to live with this in a normal way responsibly, like we do with the flu,” he added. “It very much feels like that’s where we’re headed right now, and let’s hope it stays that way.”
School districts can still choose to require masks in the building, which some have decided to do, according to reporting from NJ.com. However, most of New Jersey’s largest districts are making face coverings optional, the news organization reported.
Murphy was asked about private colleges in New Jersey that may continue to require masks, and, in response, the governor said that’s a decision those institutions can make for themselves.
“We’re voting with our feet. We’ve made the statement that on pre-K through 12, including day care, we think you can responsibly take them off today. I think you’re going to see us … make a move on state offices where we still have a mandate in place. You should expect that that’s going to get lifted sometime fairly soon. … I think we can look a lot more normal sooner than later.”
As of Thursday, more than 90% of the U.S. population lived in counties where they did not need to wear a mask in indoor public places, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation criteria.
The CDC’s criteria focuses on levels of Covid hospitalizations and severe disease in a particular county when suggesting whether its residents should wear a face covering.