Is dropping the New Jersey school mask mandate a good idea?

On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that school mask mandates will be lifted on March 7. Murphy said that milder temperatures and increased ventilation will cause cases to decrease. However, individual districts can still require masks, according to Fox 5 New York. The districts are not allowed to ban masks altogether either. According to Murphy, masks in schools were never meant to be permanent. 

Mask mandates at this point in the pandemic are a bit of a gray area. The New York Times states that COVID-19 cases have been decreasing in New Jersey over the past 30 days. Specifically, in Union County, cases hit a peak in late December but have been steadily decreasing since, with only 199 new cases by Feb. 4. 

Only time will tell whether lifting the mandate is a good idea. However, according to NPR, several studies over the past year have shown that widespread masking can significantly curb transmission from student to student. For example, one study in Wood County, Wisconsin found that schools that required masking had a 37 percent lower incidence of COVID-19 than the surrounding community. Of course, this is in conjunction with other COVID-19 protocols.

Masking for a bit longer is better than the alternative of wearing masks in school for years or having to return to virtual learning. It is the safest and simplest option for kids in all grades. The masks are not a hindrance to daily life and I believe that students can learn just as effectively with masks on than with them off.

There are many people who are tired of wearing masks for hours a day in school. However, masks are not the evil that we make them out to be. They are simply used for the health and safety of students and staff. 

To each their own, but most districts would benefit from requiring students or faculty to wear masks for the rest of this school year.