TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It is a contentious issue in many school district — keeping students masked.

Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday the New Jersey school mandate will continue, even without the consent of the state Legislature.

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As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the governor said keeping schools open is critically important.

“I want to be clear with, by the way, with no joy that the mask mandates in schools and day cares centers will continue at least for the foreseeable future. These requirements, again, give us no joy, but they are the only responsible course of action at this time,” Murphy said.

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The governor’s emergency COVID-19 powers and orders, which include requiring students and staff to wear masks inside school buildings, is set to expire Tuesday, but Murphy, without a vote by the Legislature, said he won’t let that happen.

“The mandate is going to have to stay in place for some amount of time longer. So, I would just say that I don’t have specific construct for you, but we’re working very cooperatively with the legislative leadership to make sure that we have a good pathway forward, particularly given the overwhelming tsunami that we’re dealing with,” Murphy said.

COVID VACCINE

After the governor spoke on the issue, the Legislature cancelled the vote. Some spoke up in opposition to Murphy’s blanket policies.

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“For the past 22 months, the state of New Jersey has been ruled solely by the executive. Here we have a governor who is making unilateral decisions without including the Legislature in the conversation,” Sen. Michael Testa said.

If the mask mandate expired, the decision to mask would have been made by individual districts.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

This as the number of patients in the Intensive Care Unit and on ventilators is currently as high as May of 2020. State health officials warned the COVID case count in New Jersey is four times higher than it was a month ago.

“Unvaccinated adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than children who have been vaccinated,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Judy Persichilli said.

“Many of them are too young to get vaccinated, so it’s very important that we have to maintain vaccine coverage among all of the populations that are eligible for getting vaccinated so we can cocoon these children,” state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan said.

Murphy may need to declare another public health emergency to keep the measures in place.

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CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team