As rate of pediatric cases rises, NJ holding off on masks

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he’s not ready to reinstitute mask requirements, now or when schools are back in session in September.

The Democrat made his comments on the same day the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a "layered approach" that includes masks for children over age 2, regardless of vaccination status, when they return to school.

State health commissioner Judy Persichilli said the rate of positive test results has risen recently for children up to age 13, and most sharply in children 4 and under. She added that overall cases, the rate of hospitalization and the percentage of patients in intensive care has remained low.

Currently, children 12 and over are eligible to be vaccinated. A vaccine for children under 12 is expected to be available by the end of this year.

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Murphy noted that the AAP is issuing guidelines encompassing all 50 states, many of which have vaccination rates lower than New Jersey's. Roughly 5.2 million of New Jersey's 8.8 million residents are fully vaccinated, according to state officials, or about two-thirds of the eligible population.

"We continue to be comfortable where we are," Murphy said. "We watch this like a hawk. I don’t want to go back, but if we think that’s the right thing to do, we’ll do what the public health experts suggest."

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Murphy lifted the state's indoor mask mandate in late May for people vaccinated against COVID-19.