TRENTON — Masks in New Jersey's schools and daycares will continue to be required as a COVID-19 precaution despite a looming expiration, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

Murphy, a Democrat, announced the decision at a news conference, saying at least three times that the requirement brings him "no joy," and adding that it's necessary given the record number of cases and increasing hospitalizations.

The governor did not specify how much longer the mandate would be in place or say how he planned to continue it, whether by executive order or as part of a legislative deal with lawmakers.

“I don’t have a specific construct for you — but we're working very cooperatively with the legislative leadership to make sure that we’ve got a good path forward,” Murphy said when asked on Monday about how he planned to keep the mask requirement in place.

The Democrat-led Legislature was considering a bill Monday — the final day before the new legislative session starts on Tuesday — that would permit some expiring orders and waivers that expire on Tuesday to be continued for 45 days.

Murphy said he was in discussions with legislators but declined to go into detail.

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The governor had initially requested a 90-day extension of the orders, but the final bill has halved the time. It's unclear whether the governor will support it if it comes to his desk.

The expiration date comes as part of a June law Murphy had signed aimed at ending public health emergency measures.

But Murphy, pointing to the omicron variant, requested lawmakers extend the deadline on New Year's Day.

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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