The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending universal masking in nine New Jersey counties.

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COVID transmission rates are increasing in all 21 counties, but transmission levels have reached the CDC's highest tier in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Gloucester, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, and Sussex counties.

According to the CDC, in areas where transmission is high, individuals should, "Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk (including in K-12 schools and other community settings.)"

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New Jersey is seeing an average of 3,701 new positive COVID tests per day, which is a 37% increase from a week ago. The rate of transmission is 1.25, indicating an active spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Phil Murphy has largely been silent on the increases and reluctant to impose any new statewide mask mandates. He has allowed school districts to decide the issue on their own.

Some local school districts have been reimplementing mask requirements for students and staff as they see community transmission rates rise.

In Metuchen, students and staff must wear a mask on school buses and inside all school buildings until further notice. Metuchen Schools Superintendent Vincent Caputo says the policy will be reviewed weekly.

The South Orange-Maplewood School district is requiring masks at the Clinton and South Mountain Elementary schools, and strongly encouraging them for other schools.

However, with the rise in outbreaks in our District over the past two weeks and the new information from the state, we are strongly recommending that all students/staff consider masking while indoors and on the bus.   Based on the information we’ve provided, we are leaving it at the discretion of parents/staff to determine the best decision for themselves and their families and will respect the choices made by our students and staff. - South Orange & Maplewood School District

The mask mandate remains suspended on mass transit systems, including New Jersey Transit, but commuter groups are still urging a mask-only car on every train.

NJT officials have rejected that, saying it would not logistically be possible and enforcement would be difficult.

Advocates for the mask-only cars are now intensifying their efforts after the Washington, DC, Metro system is considering the accommodation.

A petition to try and force NJT to create mask-only cars has gathered over 500 signatures.

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