TRENTON — State Senate Republicans launched an online petition Friday to persuade Gov. Phil Murphy to end his mandate requiring children under the age of 12 to wear masks at school, child care facilities and summer camps.

The petition comes the same day as Murphy's executive order requiring indoor mask wearing came to and end for adults and children over the age of 12. Unvaccinated individuals are urged to continue wearing a mask although proof of vaccination is not required.

But the mandate remains in place for children under the age of 12 who are unable to be vaccinated, leading a growing number of parents and school superintendents to ask Murphy to lift the mandate.

During an appearance Friday morning on Philadelphia radio station KYW, Murphy responded to a letter from Mount Olive superintendent Robert R. Zywicki, who said that while students can participate in indoor contact sports such as wrestling and dine indoors, they are forced to wear a mask for the entire school day.

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“He’s not entirely wrong," Murphy said. "I want to lift the masks in schools as much as anyone and I fully expect we will. But if I’m asked today do I expect we’ll start the school year with some public health protocols in place including some masking, then the answer is yes."

Murphy added that if trials over the summer lead to an approval then he could likely lift the mandate.

Zywicki was one of the superintendents Murphy consulted with about a return to school plan for the 2020-21 school year.

Two Republican state senators have identical message for Gov. Phil Murphy: put an end to the rest of your executive orders.

"The fact that children in summer camps or daycare centers must continue to wear masks, even outside in the hot and humid New Jersey weather, is truly absurd." State Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, said. "If parents want their kids to wear masks, that’s their decision, but they should not be forced to do so by Gov. Murphy. It’s time to return New Jersey to some semblance of normalcy and eliminating these baseless restrictions would be an important step forward."

Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-Somerset, said residents of all ages are confused by the mask mandate and Murphy needs to "quit micromanaging everything and remove all restrictions."

“The masks are on; the masks are off. Most don’t need a mask, but some, including children, do. New Jersey residents have been enduring this for 14 months. They are confused, frustrated and fed up," he said.

On Wednesday, Department of Health medical advisor Dr. Eddy Bresnitz said the issue of children wearing masks at summer camp is a difficult issue especially when it involves those over 12 who can be vaccinated. He said it's an evolving subject, which the CDC revised three weeks ago and could change again.

"We may see some new guidance for camps from the federal level. I would say that might impact what we say for camps in New Jersey," Bresnitz said.

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