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Citing rise in various illnesses, Passaic Schools reinstate mask mandate

Mask mandate returns to Passaic, N.J. schools
Mask mandate returns to Passaic, N.J. schools 02:26

PASSAIC, N.J. -- Kids in one New Jersey school district will need to cover up again.

Passaic has reinstated its mask mandate, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases. However, parents have mixed feelings about the change.

Kids left on Wednesday bundled up, sporting their backpacks, and, for the first time since the start of the school year, wearing masks.

Overnight, Passaic schools sent a letter to parents reintroducing the mask mandate.

"I think there's nothing wrong with it," one parent said.

"It's just for their safety. It's just more for their safety," another said.

"My baby can get that, so I don't want my baby to have it," another added.

READ MOREHealth officials urge New Yorkers to stay up-to-date with vaccinations

Parents offered mixed feelings amid not only COVID concerns, but a rise in flu and RSV cases.

"I feel it's something that should be optional. Everybody can decide how they want to protect themselves. If you want to wear, you can. If you want your children to wear it, they should be able to," Travis McDaniel said.

McDaniel has a 4-year-old attending preschool. He said he left it up to her.

"We let her decide. If she wanted to wear it, she could. If she didn't, she didn't, and I preferred it to be her choice than to have it forced on her," McDaniel said.

READ MOREStrep A joins COVID-19, flu, RSV on list of respiratory infections on the rise

Noelyn Flores also has a preschooler. She said her issue is trying to enforce the mandate.

"As young kids, they're going to have their masks down. So, it's a little challenging for the teachers, but I understand in a way why they're doing it," Flores said.

The new requirement took effect Wednesday ahead of the holiday break. It covers 17 schools, Passaic High School, and, in all, about 14,000 students.

"Even the kids that are trying, they sneeze in their hand and then they touch everything. They're kids. No one is going to get upset at kids," Mayor Hector Lora said.

READ MORENew York City officials issue health advisory, urge mask use as flu, COVID-19 and RSV spread

Lora says COVID cases in his city, and in the county, have almost doubled compared to last month.

"The mask mandates ensure they go home for the holidays healthy, and hopefully come back healthy. We want to protect our teachers and everyone around," Lora said.

Reacting to the change, Gov. Phil Murphy on Good Day New York said he doesn't expect other school districts to follow suit, though he understands the concerns.

"I'm not sure we'll see a lot of that, but we may well see some of that. But we'll muscle through this, but there's no question there's a lot of folks who are sick right now," Murphy said.

There are only a few days left before the winter break, and parents CBS2 talked to said they hope that when kids come back, they'll again be able to ditch the masks.

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