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Assembly Candidate Aura Dunn
Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Mendham). (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

School mask mandate the latest draw for Republican ire

Murphy expects to require children be masked in classrooms next school year

By Nikita Biryukov, May 25 2021 3:55 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy is facing Republican calls to walk back comments saying children would still be required to wear masks in school next fall.

“It’s an outrage for our caucus and for parents across the state,” Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Mendham) said. “To these mothers and fathers out there: We see you, we hear you, and we’re fighting to end this senseless mask mandate for our children.”

In television hits Tuesday, Murphy said children under the age of 12 would be required to wear masks when they return to school in September because the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any COVID-19 vaccines for their age group.

“My guess is as a result of that, if I had to bet today, that we’ll have masking in schools in the fall as a result of that,” Murphy said on MSNBC Tuesday morning, adding he expected guidance for the coming school year to be issued next month.

State Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Toms River), Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and Assemblyman John Catalano (R-Brick) said they intend to introduce a bill that would bar requiring students to wear masks when they return to school in the fall, though it’s unclear whether such a bill would win support from Democratic members.

Given the looming gubernatorial and legislative elections, it’s not likely.

Murphy on Monday announced the state would suspend its indoor mask mandate this Friday, allowing residents — vaccinated or not — to go without face coverings in many situations. Masks are still required on public transportation, in health care facilities and long-term care centers and at transportation hubs.

At least one Republican lawmaker plans hold his Democratic colleagues responsible if the mask requirement for children is still in place by September.

“Let’s be clear, if the governor is still acting unilaterally in the fall, then there is no one else to blame besides the Assembly and Senate Democrats. More specifically, the leadership in both houses,” Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville) said.

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