Gov. Murphy ends virtual learning in fall, defends mask mandate

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced that virtual learning will end by the start of the next school year. He also explained why he has chosen to leave the state's mask-wearing mandate in place despite recent CDC guidance.

All students would be back in school for full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year, he said.

"When schools across New Jersey first closed their doors in March of last year, little was known about COVID-19 and how it spread. But over a year has passed, and we are now facing a very different reality," Murphy said. "With our health metrics trending decisively in the right direction, the significant progress we have made in our vaccination effort, and vaccines now available to those as young as 12, we are in a position to get our students back into the classroom full-time come fall."

Remote learning will be permitted in the event that there is a localized outbreak or other emergencies. If buildings are open for in-person instruction, parents or guardians will not be able to opt-out of in-person instruction.

Summer camps and summer educational programming for Summer 2021 will not be impacted and will still be required to follow relevant health and safety protocols.

The governor also defended his decision about mask-wearing by pointing out that most of the state's residents still aren't yet fully vaccinated and that no one is checking a person's vaccination status when they walk into a store or other business.

"It is unfair to put the burden on business owners and frontline employees to police every patron," he said.

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Putting "more time on the clock" by keeping the mandate longer will allow more residents to get vaccinated, the governor said.

So far, about 44% of New Jersey's population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Murphy also lifted the state's travel advisory. Travelers to New Jersey or those returning home to the Garden State are no longer required to quarantine upon arrival as had been the requirement for more than a year. All travelers will be required to follow local health, federal and international safety protocols when visiting.

"If your goal is international travel, recognize that the COVID reality in many nations is different than here and adhere to the travel guidance and advisories posted by the U.S. Department of State," Murphy said.

With The Associated Press.