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New Jersey ends statewide school mask mandate, but districts can enforce their own

New Jersey ends statewide school mask mandate 01:49

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- New Jersey's statewide school mask mandate was lifted Monday, with only a few districts opting to keep one in place.

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge got reaction from parents and students in Jersey City, where face coverings are optional.

"I feel like finally, we were waiting for this for all these months," said parent Kate Moriashcha.  

Parents and students arriving at PS 3 Elementary School got to see each other's smiling faces for the first time in almost two years.

"My face has not been uncovered in a while," said Cleo, a fourth grader.

Effective Monday, New Jersey lifted its mask mandate in schools and other child care facilities, citing factors including declining hospitalization rates, student and staff vaccination rates, and the ability to regularly test for COVID.

Gov. Phil Murphy also lifted the state's health emergency Monday.

"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 a flu," Murphy said.

It remains up to each school district to decide whether to require masks. Districts cannot ban face coverings, but they can decide to still require them. Newark and New Brunswick schools are keeping a mask mandate in place, but most have made them optional.

"I like that kids have a choice, parents have a choice," one parent said.  

Some parents said they want to wait and see how it goes.  

"They lifted it, but I'm going to keep on with it," parent Sandra Baker said.  

"She's gonna still wear for the first, probably at least this week, see how things are going," said parent Tara Maretis.

The principal at PS 3 said safety and cleaning protocols are unchanged.

"We just follow the district protocols that we've had in place. If somebody does show symptoms, we bring them to the nurse's office, we have an isolation room, we send them out and make them return with a negative test," Principal Darren Mischel said.

Students may still have to mask up for five days after returning from isolation or if there is another outbreak.

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