Murphy, a Democrat, said that barring a big resurgence of COVID-19, the state's school districts should move ahead with Monday-through-Friday in-person instruction. He spoke during a news conference in Trenton and also announced new Health Department guidelines for schools.
The new guidance calls for allowing full-time, in-person education now if masking and frequent hand-washing can be maintained, as well as a 3-foot distance between students in the classroom. The new 3-foot distance, down from 6 feet, is in line with what federal regulators said last week.
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A 6-foot distance should be maintained in districts the state Health Department has determined have a high COVID-19 transmission rate, the governor said.
Schools have to keep 6 feet between students in common areas, like cafeterias, under the new guidelines.
"Now is the time for all of our schools to meaningfully move forward with a return to in-person instruction whether it be full-time or through a hybrid schedule," Murphy said.
Most of the state's school districts have some level of in-person instruction now. There are 534 using a hybrid schedule, which includes some in-person and remote learning. There are 143 districts that are all in person, and 90 that are entirely remote. A few dozen districts have some combination of in-person and remote learning across different schools within the district.
New Jersey has seen COVID-19 trends go in the wrong direction after a couple of weeks of positive developments. The seven-day rolling average of new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 3,322 on March 8 to 4,206 on Monday.
New Jersey also has the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days of any state.