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New Jersey Gov. Phil MurphyShutterstock

TRENTON, New Jersey (LifeSiteNews) – New Jersey Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy announced an end to the statewide mask mandate for public schools amid a conspicuous about-face from Democrats nationwide on COVID-19 policies.

Fox News reported that the mandate, which applies to students and staff alike, is slated to expire on March 7. Murphy had renewed the mandate as recently as January.

“This is a huge step back to normalcy for our kids,” Murphy declared. “We have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to the endemic phase of this virus.”

But it appears that politics, more so than science, played a major role in the governor’s reversal. According to The New York Times, advisers to Murphy conducted a “series of focus groups across the state” that revealed, “Across the board, voters shared frustrations over public health measures, a sense of pessimism about the future and a deep desire to return to some sense of normalcy. Even Democratic voters, they agreed, were wearying of the toughest restrictions, growing increasingly impatient with mandates and feeling ready to live with the risk that remained.”

Despite the news, several jurisdictions, including Camden City School District and Newark Public Schools, have announced they will continue to mandate masks in their schools. By contrast, some Republican-led states such as Florida and Virginia have forbidden mask requirements, leading to conflicts between state and local authorities.

Available evidence suggests that masks have played little, if any, role in reducing COVID-19’s spread across the United States, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) September 2020 acknowledgement that masks cannot be counted on to keep out COVID when spending 15 minutes or longer within six feet of someone, or a May 2020 study published by CDC’s peer-reviewed journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.”

Last May, another study found that, though mandates effectively increased mask use, that usage did not yield the expected benefits: “mask mandates and use (were) not associated with lower SARS-CoV-2 spread among U.S. states” from March 2020 to March 2021. In fact, the researchers found the results to be a net negative, with masks increasing “dehydration … headaches and sweating and decreas[ing] cognitive precision,” and interfering with communication, as well as impairing social learning among children.

“The potential educational harms of mandatory-masking policies are much more firmly established, at least at this point, than their possible benefits in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” University of California-San Francisco epidemiologist and professor Vinay Prasad wrote in September. “Early childhood is a crucial period when humans develop cultural, language, and social skills, including the ability to detect emotion on other people’s faces. Social interactions with friends, parents, and caregivers are integral to fostering children’s growth and well-being.”