On Jan 11, Gov. Phil Murphy reinstated a public health emergency that will allow for existing orders requiring masking in school and daycare settings to remain in effect, according to a news release issued by the governor’s office.

The news follows a Jan. 10 media briefing in which the governor vowed the mask mandate in schools would continue. “Virtual learning is no replacement for in-person education, and I don’t believe there is an argument against this,” he said at that briefing. “And 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.”

Addresses Order in State of the State Speech During his State of the State address Jan. 11, the governor explained the impetus for reinstating the emergency, noting, “In consultation with my partners in the Legislature, I have taken the necessary step of re-declaring a Public Health Emergency to ensure we keep moving forward – guided by facts and science – and that we keep doing everything we can to beat back Omicron and put COVID behind us.” He added, “In your day-to-day lives, this step won’t bring any changes. But it is vital to ensuring our continued and coordinated response so we can move forward and put COVID behind us.”

The governor’s declaration in Executive Order No. 281 is meant to ensure that the state can respond to the continued threat of COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.  It declares a public health emergency and restates 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 health care system and affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases. Of particular importance to the education community, the declaration extends Executive Order 253, which institutes vaccination or testing requirements for all preschool to grade 12 personnel and all state workers; and Executive Order 251 on mask requirements in schools.

“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,” the governor said. “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.”

The public health emergency will allow the state to continue vaccine distribution, vaccination or testing requirements in certain settings, the collection of COVID-19 data, implementation of any applicable recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent or limit the transmission of COVID-19, staffing and resource allocation, and other critical components of the state’s COVID-19 response.

Gov. Murphy’s public health emergency declaration also empowers all state agencies to take appropriate steps to continue to address the public health hazard resulting from new variants of COVID-19.

Under the Emergency Health Powers Act, the public health emergency will expire after 30 days, unless renewed. State COVID-19 metrics will be re-evaluated at the time of expiration to determine if an extension will be needed.

For a video message from Murphy on the public health emergency, please click here.

For a copy of Executive Order No. 280, please click here.

For a copy of Executive Order No. 281, please click here.