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Gov. Phil Murphy Announces Schools Shuttered for Academic Year

New Jersey schools will remain closed the rest of the year.

Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement May 4, citing the need to “protect the health of our children, our educators, and their families. Guided by safety and science, this is the best course of action.”

Private schools with longer academic years will remain closed until at least June 30.

While the prohibition of in-person instruction will be maintained through the end of the school year, public schools will continue to provide remote learning for students to allow districts to meet the state-required minimum of 180 instruction days.

Closed Since March

The state ordered all public and private schools closed on March 18 and has twice extended the closure, the latest scheduled to expire May 15. 

The shutdown has affected about 1.4 million public school students and more than 115,000 teachers, closing more than 2,500 schools across the state. Districts scrambled to develop plans for virtual learning, while other schools resorted to sending home worksheets. 

Murphy said the decision was made after a “rigorous process” involving a wide range of opinions. He hoped waiting as long as the state did, it would allow children to return to the school, reunited with classmates.

‘Difficult Decision’

“This is a difficult decision and I know that many students, parents, and staff would like to be able to return to school,” he said. “However, I have been unwavering on the message that we need to make decisions based on science, not emotion.”

“The reality is that we cannot safely reopen our schools to provide students and families, or faculty and staff, the confidence needed to allow for a return to in-person instruction.”

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the concern was not only for the health of the students but for older teachers and staff as well as the students bringing the coronavirus home to older relatives and caregivers.

Sorry for Seniors

“We did want to give this every shot we could, in particular for the seniors,” said the first-term Democratic governor. noted New Jersey was the 46th state to close school buildings for the year.

State officials plan to work with local school boards to give graduating high school seniors some type of prom and graduation celebrations.

“I still want to see them have those opportunities, and we will also work with districts on safe and creative ways to give the Class of 2020 a proper send-off to their futures,” he said.

The state said any decision about summer school or enrichments programs held at school buildings are still to be determined.

Infections Pass 121K

The news comes on a day where the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 128,269 with1,621 new cases and 45 new deaths, bringing that total to 7,910. Official believed the number of new cases and deaths may be inaccurate as a result of a network outage May 3 preventing all cases from being processed.

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,292, followed by Bergen with 1,215, Hudson at 845, Passaic at 633, Morris at 449, Sussex at 116 and Warren with 97.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 53% White, 20% Black, 17% Hispanic, 5% Asian and 6% another race. For 40,309 hospitalizations that were tracked, the breakdown was 36% white, 20% black, 18% hispanic, 5% Asian and 11% another race. 

Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state and vowed that any plan to reopen the state will work to reduce racial inequities in healthcare. The governor recently signed legislation mandating hospitals report age, gender, ethnicity and race of people who have tested COVID-19 positive or died from the virus.

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 59% had cardiovascular disease, 43% diabetes, 32% other chronic diseases, 17% neurological conditions,15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for 7,223 confirmed deaths shows 43% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 35% in the range of 65-80, 15% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen still has the most cumulative cases in the state with 16,282, followed by Hudson at 15,881, Essex at 14,621, Passaic at 13,496, Union at 13,357, Middlesex at 12,768, Ocean at 6,974, Monmouth at 6,378, Morris at 5,549, Mercer at 4,594, Camden at 4,073, Somerset at 3,753, Burlington at 3,100, Gloucester at 1,433, Atlantic at 1,135, Sussex at 979, Warren at 977, Cumberland at 940, Hunterdon at 665, Cape May at 355 and Salem at 312.

Another 641 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

The amount of days it takes for a county to double its cases in all 21 counties continue to trend up, although cases in the South are doubling at a faster pace than the rest of the state, according to Murphy. In North Jersey, it has taken more than 30 days to double in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Esex, Sussex and Morris counties, while the rate in Passaic is 28.5 days and in Warren 29 days.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 508 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 22,061 of the cases and 4,010 of the total deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 3,902 residents test positive with 721total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 2,027 residents test positive with 462 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,446 residents test positive with 339 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,205 residents test positive with 244 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 945 residents test positive with 181 total deaths, Warren’s seven facilities had 489 residents test positive with 66 total deaths and Sussex’s five facilities had 328 residents test positive with 85 total deaths. 

State Testing

The state has processed 248,319 coronavirus tests of mostly symptomatic individuals since the outbreak began, with 40% testing positive for COVID-19. Murphy noted that percentage has been “drifting down” for the past two weeks. The state estimates between 9,000-11,000 tests are processed a day with results returning in about a week.

Officials reported 5,287 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 362 new hospitalizations—while 335 patients were discharged. The North tier had 2,845 patients, the central 1,578 and the south 864.

There are currently 44 patients in field hospitals, with 395 treated overall. Of those hospitalized, 1,610 are in intensive care units and 1,189 are on ventilators. 

‘Overwhelming Compliance’

State officials raved about the behavior at reopened parks and golf courses on May 2 and 3. New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said there was “overwhelming compliance” on both days and no summonses were issued as a result of people disregarding social distancing regulations.

Callahan reported Shore towns did see higher vehicle and foot traffic. While beaches can not legally close off access to non-residents, Murphy hinted some guidance on how beach towns should operate will be offered soon, including limiting season’s passes and parking.

“We heard of very few incidents of knucklehead behavior that would require me to reverse course and close them again,” Murphy said. “The behavior that you all showed everybody this weekend is going to give us more degrees of freedom.”

More Face Coverings

The governor said the only issue he had was first hand observance not enough park goers wore masks, estimation only about 20% had one on when he went on a run with his wife in Monmouth County.

“That’s something we will have to continue to pound,” Murphy said.

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