SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (PIX11) — Nearly half of the state’s counties are now at a high level of COVID spread, according to the CDC. The current rate is more than double what it was four weeks ago, and it’s prompting a rise in questions about the need for statewide action against the spread.

On Monday, a variety of schools and school districts returned to universal mask requirements and other measures. Gov. Phil Murphy expressed support for the changes, but said that statewide measures are not necessary, at least for now. He also said that he anticipates numbers to peak soon.

Meanwhile, in places like South Mountain Elementary School, students and their parents talked about why their campus now requires teachers, staff and students to wear masks indoors at all times.

Ella Wilson, a third grader, said that even though masks had been optional, she’s “used to it.”

Jillian Howell, the parent of a kindergarten student, explained in greater detail about her daughter being required to mask up in class and in the halls.

“At this school in particular, there are two classes that have had significant outbreaks,” Howell said. “So it seems like a reasonable precaution to take.”

Howell said she hopes the measures are temporary.

At a news conference on Monday, Gov. Murphy echoed that sentiment. He said he’d been informed by his health commissioner that, “this wave we’re in now is gonna peak in the next week or two.”

That statement also assumes a continued rise in cases in the meantime. That rise is causing local jurisdictions to have to implement COVID protection measures.

Here in the South Orange-Maplewood School District, masks are required at South Mountain Elementary and Clinton Elementary Schools. The district is strongly encouraging mask-wearing system-wide.

In Metuchen, all schools are requiring that masks be worn indoors.

As for a statewide masking requirement, or other statewide measures, Murphy said that with a high vaccination rate, as well as with rising COVID levels still at a fraction of the rates the state saw last winter, he doesn’t yet see a need for wide-ranging action.

Nine of the state’s 21 counties have high rates, according to the CDC.

“School districts, particularly when they’re in those counties,” Gov. Murphy said, should take measures that they see appropriate, including a requirement for students to “put masks back on when they’re indoors.”

Regarding actions prescribed for the entire state, “I have no news at this time,” the governor said.

One parent at a mask-required school, Nubia Duvall Wilson, said that having local mandates, as opposed to state ones, makes sense to her.

“Doing it on a local level keeps our communities safe,” she said.