North Jersey News Roundup for May 13, 2020

State officials rolled out the framework for expanded testing and contact tracing for COVID-19, two key initiatives cited by Gov. Phil Murphy that is needed to be in place to reopen New Jersey. In a program Murphy said will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” the governor established a floor of processing 20,000 tests a day in the state by the end of May and building a contact tracing corps doubling the number currently employed in the state.

Top Trump administration health officials stressed the need to expand testing and move with caution before easing coronavirus lockdowns in a Senate hearing. Officials cautioned a vaccine would almost certainly not come in time to protect students for the return to school in the fall, a recently authorized treatment was not a game-changing advance and that states had to rebuild their depleted public health systems by hiring enough people before they could effectively track the spread of the virus and contain it. The New York Times 

CVS Pharmacy will offer coronavirus testing at its New Jersey stores by the end of May. CVS will have swab-and-send testing capabilities in place at 50 of its stores across the state.

New Jersey’s timeline to reopen from near-lockdown restrictions to fight the coronavirus pandemic will be handled statewide, not regionally, and will be done incrementally. Gov. Phil Murphy expects an announcement on the next steps later this week, particularly with Memorial Day weekend coming soon. The Record

The Sussex, Hunterdon and Warren freeholder boards are forming their own group to develop a regional plan to re-open businesses in the northwestern part of New Jersey. The freeholder directors are looking to help local businesses that are struggling financially as a result of the state’s shutdown orders because of the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey Herald

Insurance companies will have to cut premiums for motorists and other types of policy holders retroactive for two months and refund the difference, thanks to the lower risk of traffic accidents or other kinds of payouts amid the restrictions and economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The move by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance mandates what the industry began doing voluntarily in April, when Allstate announced that it would cut auto insurance premiums and provide refunds to policyholders.

Transit agencies from five states, including NJ Transit, are asking for the federal government to include about $33 billion in funding for public transportation in the next COVID-19 aid package. For NJ Transit, the exact calculation of the agency’s needs is “not quite there yet” but that it will be “roughly proportional” to its initial request. PoliticoNJ

Newton’s Town Council waived restaurant permit fees for outdoor seating for the coming year. The council waived the $50 annual fee to allow restaurants to set up outdoor seating, thereby regaining some of the indoor seating which would be lost on expected social distancing regulations because of the coronavirus. New Jersey Herald

The Jersey City Board of Education unanimously adopted its $736 million budget, approving a spending plan raising the average homeowner’s tax bill over $550. The adopted 2020-21 budget calls for a 39% hike to the school tax levy, raising it to $189 million from $136 million. The Jersey Journal

And finally…The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum will donate $5 from every Gov. Phil Murphy Bobblehead sold to the Protect The Heroes fund in support of the 100 Million Mask Challenge. Hudson Reporter

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