TRENTON, NJ -- Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced that the NJ Dept. of Health has revised its guidance for local health departments on K-12 in-class operations. 

The governor said that if masking and frequent hand-washing can be maintained by students and educators and support staff in a classroom, then full-time in-person instruction can begin with the distance between students reduced to three feet, instead of six. This updated social distancing guidance applies to all elementary grade levels across all levels of community transmission risk. It also applies to middle and high school grades at low and moderate risk levels.

“For all schools, regardless of grade or risk factor, six feet of distance is critical in indoor common areas when masking is not an option, such as when students are eating and drinking in the school cafeteria,” said Murphy. “With this guidance being released, 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.”

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"The strong safety protocols to help prevent in-school spread that have been in place since August will remain in place, and that is because, overall, they have been quite successful," the governor added. "The number of cases linked to in-school spread since August 1st is 890. That is fewer than two tenths of one percent of all the cases that we have recorded in what is now closing in on the past eight full months."

Of public-school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, and schools for students with disabilities"

  • 143 school districts: in-person instruction (roughly 97,000 students)
  • 534 school districts: hybrid instruction (833,000 students),
  • 90 school districts: all-remote, and
  • 44 districts have a combination of remote, hybrid, and in-person instruction methods (121,600 students).

"This means that more than two thirds of our 1.35 million students are back in their classrooms in some form," Murphy said, adding that he recognizes it has been an extraordinarily stressful school year.

"I mentioned learning loss especially with the all-remote kids, but there’s been learning loss up and down the state and across our country," Murphy said. "I applaud everybody who’s associated with this school year -- whether they be educators, parents, kids themselves, superintendents, staff -- for everything they’re doing to try to get to the right place."

The governor revealed over the past few weeks, he has called mayors, superintendents, and union leadership to "thank them for what they’re doing and to encourage them further to get as safely and responsibly back in person as soon as we can."

Latest NJ COVID Numbers

During the briefing, Murphy reported 3,227 new positive PCR tests, 774,100 total PCR tests, 1,110 new positive antigen tests, 103,836 total antigen tests, 2,136 patients in hospitals, 430 patients in ICU, 218 ventilators in use, 267 live patients discharged, and 312 COVID-positive patients admitted to hospitals across the state.

Murphy also reported 28 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, bringing the cumulative total of confirmed deaths to 21,757. The number of probable deaths has been revised to 2,535.As of the briefing, 3,638,002 total doses have been administered and nearly 1.3 million individuals are now fully vaccinated, according to the governor.