NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — Newark Public Schools ended its mask mandate for students and staff just four days into the school year.

“Given our review of multiple indicators and with the advice of the Newark Health Department and our healthcare partners this evening, the mask mandate is lifted beginning Monday, September 12th. Masks are now optional in our schools and facilities,” a district spokesperson said on Facebook.

Despite most of New Jersey relaxing most – if not all – of its COVID-19 mandates, Newark Public Schools remained a holdout, primarily due to the low vaccination rate among its youth in Essex County. 

“Students between the ages of 5 and 17 – 95% of them are still unvaccinated,” said John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union.

Even with low vaccination rates, much of New Jersey is currently seeing a downward trend in coronavirus infections. However, health experts insist the state is still not out of the woods.

“As we move into the fall season, with flu and viral illnesses, we have to be concerned that COVID-19 will make a return,” said Dr. Sampson Davis, a New Jersey-based physician.

Similar to many of the districts across New Jersey, Newark Public Schools officials said they are prepared to pivot if an uptick in cases emerges.