‘It brings us no joy.’ Gov. Murphy defends mask mandate for toddlers amid criticism

Gov. Phil Murphy is defending his decision to mandate mask wearing for toddlers in day care, amid criticism from Republican lawmakers and some parents.
The governor says that the rules are consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and actions by other states.
“We know that this is not easy. We know these kids are 2 in some cases,” Murphy said at Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing.
On Monday, Murphy mandated masking inside New Jersey day cars for staff, parents and all children 2 years old and older.
“It brings us no joy, I want to say that with great emphasis, to be mandating masks, particularly on little kids. I mean, that’s not something that we’re doing happily,” Murphy said.
Republicans like state Sen. Holly Schepisi and parents object to the idea of masking toddlers.
“It's harmful to children of that age. As a mother, I had a hard enough time keeping a diaper on my kids at that age,” Schepisi says. “It actually flies in the face of international guidance from the World Health Organization for children under the age of 5 to wear masks for extended periods of time.”
But Murphy and state health officials say that the CDC recommends indoor masking for all people age 2 and older. Similar rules are in place in New York and Pennsylvania.
“Anybody who is unvaccinated, you know, always potentially poses a risk of transmission,” says state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan.
“We have had seven deaths of individuals 18 years and younger from COVID,” says state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
The governor says he recognizes the demand for day care providers will not be easy, but that masking and vaccinations for day care employees are necessary to protect the population from the virus.
“Unless my medical colleagues disagree with me, this thing’s probably going to be with us, perhaps the rest of our lives,” Murphy said. “But there's clearly going to be a point, and I want to be unequivocal about this, that we're not in hand-to-hand combat, as we remain unfortunately today.”
Under the state’s former indoor mask mandate, all children over 2 years old were required to wear masks. That mandate was in place from March 2020 through May 2021.