One of the most passionate campaign attacks at Phil Murphy was over the masking of students.
“Unmask our kids” was both a rallying cry and a campaign lawn sign for Murphy’s opponents.
Almost three weeks after Election Day, Murphy is still going to be governor and kids in public schools are still wearing masks.
But how much longer?
Asked Monday about lifting the mandate, the governor said, “We’re not there yet.”
In fact, COVID numbers of late have begun trending upward.
The rate of transmission increased slightly over the last few days and over the last week, the number of hospitalized individuals with COVID increased from 626 to 768. The number of patients on ventilators also is up.
Health experts attribute this to colder weather forcing people to do more things indoors. And that may be why there is some hesitancy about lifting the school mask mandate.
Still, the small surge in COVID numbers pales in comparison to what we saw last year at this time.
Which probably is why an optimistic Murphy said he hoped to lift the mandate sooner rather than later.
He hinted that may happen in two stages with older kids first. That’s because those 12 and older have been eligible for the vaccine longer than children 11 and under. So, it figures that more of them are protected from the virus.
“The more kids we get vaccinated, the faster we will be able to get out of this,” Murphy said of the mask mandate.
As he often does, the governor said he is no fan of kids in masks. He spoke of it as something unpleasant – “It’s hanging over our heads, it’s hanging over my head.”
Perhaps, but you get the feeling this Sword of Damocles suspended over Murphy’s head was a bit more threatening pre-election than it is now.