North Jersey News Roundup for April 22, 2020

State officials say they are prepared for the surge in coronavirus cases beginning in the central part of New Jersey. There were nine hospitals in the state that hit “divert” status April 20 and for the first time since the pandemic started, North Jersey hospitals did not lead the state.

The Senate approved a $484 billion coronavirus relief package to revive a loan program for distressed small businesses and provide funds for hospitals and coronavirus testing. Most of the funding, $331 billion, would go to boost a small-business payroll loan program that ran out of money, $75 billion would be given to hospitals, and $25 billion would be spent to boost testing for the virus and a mandate that the Trump administration establish a national strategy to help states and localities. The New York Times

Rutgers University launched the nation’s largest prospective study of healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19, including a series of clinical trials exploring new drug treatments, antibody testing and long-term health tracking as to how to treat the disease and prevent its spread. About 550 healthcare providers and about 300 non-healthcare workers from Rutgers University Hospital in Newark, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick volunteered for the study, some having had direct patient exposure and others having had none. The Daily Record

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency clearance to the first in-home test for the coronavirus, a nasal swab kit from LabCorp after the company submitted data showing the home test is as safe and accurate as a sample collection at testing sites. Patients will swab their own nose using a testing kit sent by the company, and will mail it in an insulated package back to the company. The Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 test will be available to consumers in most states, with a doctor’s order. The New York Times

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney wants the federal government to create a $500 billion loan program for public-sector pension plans losing ground as the stock market dropped in the last month. New Jersey’s public-pension investments fell more than 13% from the beginning of the July 1 fiscal year through mid-March, according to the state Division of Investment with further losses projected.

New Jerseyans who borrowed money for college from private lenders will get the same help as those who received student loans from the federal government as the coronavirus shuts down the state’s economy. The agreement with private lenders postpones payments for at least 90 days, waives fees for late payments, ensures borrowers who miss payments do not receive a negative credit rating and stops debt collection lawsuits for 90 days. The Record

Fitch Ratings lowered the New Jerseys debt grade one notch to “A- from “A” and knocked the rating outlook from to negative from stable, the state’s first credit-rating downgrade in three years. Fitch’s analysts cited ongoing economic upheaval being caused by the pandemic, as well as some of the state’s longstanding fiscal problems, including long-term pension liabilities. NJ Spotlight

Brent crude futures, the global benchmark for oil markets, dropped 2.3% to $18.87 a barrel, having slid to its lowest since 1999 in Asian trading hours. West Texas Intermediate futures—the U.S. benchmark—were down 3.4% at $11.18 a barrel, after plummeting 43% April 22 to close at its lowest price in 21 years. The Wall Street Journal

Of 160 construction sites listed by Jersey City, all but 19 have been approved to continue operating, despite the governor’s executive order to halt construction because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of them are considered essential because of concerns about site safety and security as well as the projects pertaining to affordable housing and school buildings. The Jersey Journal

NJ Transit will resume service April 25 at two Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stations on the West Side Avenue Branch following completion of required utility work by the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and Garfield Avenue stations will reopen for scheduled light rail service, while the West Side Avenue station will maintain shuttle bus service to allow for continued early-action construction work on the Rt. 440 extension. Hudson Reporter

The son of Paramus’ mayor filed a lawsuit against three of the borough’s Republican council members who voted against hiring him as a police officer citing nepotism concerns. Vincent LaBarbiera is claiming the council members are infringing on his rights but not firing him despite being previously hired by the borough. The Record

And finally….The “Jersey 4 Jersey” concert benefiting the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund featuring Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Jon Stewart and Chris Rock will be held at 7 pm tonight.

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