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NEW JERSEY — Gov. Phil Murphy stood by his school mask mandate for the upcoming school year on Monday despite vocal protests from parents.

Murphy, a Democrat running for reelection, said COVID-19 outbreaks will mushroom without a requirement for face coverings. The rise of the delta variant was a factor in the decision, Murphy said, adding that the move would be temporary.

“We are not willing to surrender our kids to this virus unlike those who are opposed to this common sense plan,” Murphy said.

COVID transmission rates were considered high or substantial in counties across the state, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli urged parents and children 12 and up to get vaccinated.

New Jersey’s Department of Health will hold a number of back-to-school vaccine and testing events across the state.