More NJ Schools Close, Murphy Says Mask Mandate Remains
New Jersey has begun 2022 with more than a quarter of K-12 schools closed to in-person learning, and more are being added to the list.
The number of reported COVID cases among students and staff continues to increase as the omicron variant washes over New Jersey.
The state's COVID dashboard lists 2,227 cumulative cases as of January 4.
Bergen County has the highest number of outbreaks, with 47. Atlantic, Monmouth, and Morris Counties are all reporting 30 or more outbreaks.
Pleasantville schools in Atlantic County is the latest to announce a move back to virtual learning, effective Jan. 24.
More than 700 schools across the state have moved back to online learning in some form, either for the entire school or for specific classes or grades.
In many cases, staffing shortages are prompting the change. With full-time teachers forced to quarantine, there have not been enough substitutes to keep in-person learning going in many districts.
The legislature has approved a bill that would allow retired teachers to return to the classroom for up to two years without impacting their pension in the hopes that will alleviate staff shortages and keep schools open. Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign the bill.
Current COVID Outbreaks in NJ Schools
- Atlantic County; 30 outbreaks with 113 linked cases
- Bergen County; 47 outbreaks with 258 linked cases
- Burlington County; No Data
- Camden County; 39 outbreaks with 290 linked cases
- Cape May County; 9 outbreaks with 45 linked cases
- Cumberland County; 13 outbreaks with 77 linked cases
- Essex County; 19 outbreaks with 110 linked cases
- Gloucester County; 7 outbreaks with 44 linked cases
- Hudson County; 18 outbreaks with 89 linked cases
- Hunterdon County; 7 outbreaks with 51 linked cases
- Mercer County; 21 outbreaks with 101 linked cases
- Middlesex County; 3 outbreaks with 46 linked cases
- Monmouth County; 31 outbreaks with 150 linked cases
- Morris County; 31 outbreaks with 190 linked cases
- Ocean County; 20 outbreaks with 98 linked cases
- Passaic County; 19 outbreaks with 170 linked cases
- Salem County; 10 outbreaks with 39 linked cases
- Somerset County; 20 outbreaks with 134 linked cases
- Sussex County; 29 outbreaks with 156 linked cases
- Union County; 9 outbreaks with 54 linked cases
- Warren County; 2 outbreaks with 12 linked cases
The original coronavirus outbreak seemed not to affect children to a large degree, but the omicron variant is impacting younger people at a much greater rate.
State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported Monday that pediatric cases of COVID are "at the highest level since the pandemic began," and that two children recently died from COVID.
Gov. Murphy vowed to continue with his mask mandate in school as a way to keep classrooms open. "Unequivocally the mask mandate in schools will continue for the foreseeable future," Murphy said Monday, adding it "won't be around forever."
However, that mandate is set to expire today, and lawmakers have denied Murphy an extension of his pandemic powers that would have continued his existing orders.
What happens next is not clear. A new legislature takes over this week and could pass an extension. Murphy also has the option to declare a new public health emergency, and reclaim his pandemic authorities without legislative consent.