A Little Something on Masks and Politics

Flag Day fun: Ciattarelli, left, and Murphy.

Phil Murphy has long said he’s not worried about politics when it comes to the pandemic.

Democrats probably believe him; Republicans probably not.

Still, no one can deny that the gubernatorial election gets closer every day. So, whether he likes it or not, or whether he admits it or not, two pending decisions may have huge political implications.

Yes, we’re talking about masks.

The governor said the other day that the state is “recommending” that masks again be worn indoors under certain conditions, They include especially crowded settings and if there is any evidence many people are unvaccinated. How one can detect that is a mystery.

At any rate, the logical question is, will indoor mask wearing again become mandatory?

That question is becoming more relevant by the minute; New Jersey today reported more than 1,000 positive COVID cases for the first time since early May.

That may be a one-day event, or an ominous sign. We’ll find out soon.

Some Republicans are already waiting to pounce on a new mask mandate that may. or may not, be coming.

We have seen from the outset that responding to the pandemic splits the state politically.

Democrats tend to come down on the side of protecting public health and safety.

Republicans are wont – as Jack Ciattarelli is doing – to make economic vitality a priority.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Dems don’t care if businesses close, or that Republicans don’t care if people die, it’s just that obvious philosophical differences are at play.

So what will happen if Murphy orders another mask mandate?

Republicans will scream. We know that.

But how about Democrats, and for that matter, independents?

The guess here is that those who have been vaccinated, which would include most Democrats, may be irritated by another mask mandate.

It’s just human nature.

And such a mandate could also prompt more criticism of the un-vaccinated, who would likely be seen as the reason for the step backward. Do we need even more division?

If all that is not enough, it’s almost August, so the opening of schools is not that far away.

The NJEA on Wednesday called for students to wear masks when school reopens.

The teachers’ union backs Murphy’s reelection, but this is certainly a third rail issue.

Parents, seemingly from all sides of the political spectrum, have been calling on local school boards all summer not to “mask their children” this fall.

Murphy is fond of saying that Covid data and medical science drives his decisions.

That may be, but this is an election year and no politician can afford to forget about politics.

And there’s a lot of politics swirling around masks.

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  • Moe Howard

    Good article, thanks. Murphy should be able to to walk away with this election. Let’s suppose he mandates masks in school. Kids will come home screaming, parents will be upset, and school boards, as you suggest, will catch holy heck. This could affect him in November.

    Suppose he says no to a mask mandate. That would mean 500 and however many school districts will be having problems with the unions. They’ll demand a return to remote learning. Parents that returned to work over the summer might have to leave again.

    Also consider the vaccine mandates that could happen at any time. Will the NJEA insist that all students returning to school be vaccinated? Will they require 100% compliance from their own members? This could be another can of worms.

    Murphy’s a smart guy, but he’s kind of gutless (recall the Katie Brennan affair). I’m guessing he’ll seek political cover by punting to the counties and individual districts. Should be interesting.

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