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Gov. Phil Murphy Signs Bill Giving Towns More Flexibility During Emergencies

Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law May 15 a bill giving local governments in New Jersey’s 565 municipalities some breathing room in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Senate bill 2392 and Assembly bill 3969 will allow for flexibility by adjusting various timeframes, deadlines and notifications during declared public emergencies so local officials can tend to more pressing needs of their communities.

“The COVID crisis and resulting shutdown has imposed severe disruptions on the lives of everyone and on the ability of local government to respond to the needs of their residents,” State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement.

Local Flexibility

Officials on the local level have “direct interaction” with residents and need the ability to “operate as effectively as possible” and have the “flexibility so they can provide services that are even more urgent now,” said Sarlo, who also serves as mayor of Wood-Ridge.

The bill would specifically:

  • authorize the Director of the Division of Local Government Services to permit municipalities to extend a grace period for quarterly property tax payments.
  • allow an extension of the 10-day interest-free grace period on payments period up to a maximum of 30 days.
  • extend the certification renewal periods for various county and municipal officers, including finance officers, qualified purchasing agents, municipal clerks, public works managers, tax collectors, and tax assessors.
  • authorize local public bodies to hold public meetings remotely by electronic means as long as reasonable public notice is made.
  • clarify that local governments could accept specific types of electronic payments.

Daily Data

The cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 146,334 with 1,245 new cases and 107 new deaths, bringing that total to 10,356 as of May 17. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,528, followed by Bergen with 1,455, Hudson at 1,057, Passaic at 838, Morris at 561, Sussex at 138 and Warren with 120.

Hospital Statistics

Officials reported 3,411 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus, while 333 patients were discharged. The north tier had 1,706 patients hospitalized, the central 1,030 and the south 675.

Of those hospitalized,1,030 are in intensive care units and 819 on ventilators. There are currently 42 patients in field hospitals, with 449 treated overall. 

Hudson Tops County Count

Hudson has the most cumulative cases in the state with 17,447, followed by Bergen at 17,361, Essex at 16,140, Passaic at 15,205, Union at 14,702, Middlesex at 14,668, Ocean at 7,913, Monmouth at 7,339, Morris at 6,036, Mercer at 5,825, Camden at 5,455, Somerset at 4,255, Burlington at 3,937, Gloucester at 1,832, Atlantic at 1,758, Cumberland at 1,608, Warren at 1,078, Sussex at 1,056, Hunterdon at 808, Cape May at 503 and Salem at 459.

Another 949 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 19% Black, 19% Hispanic, 6% Asian and 3% 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. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 527 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 27,977 of the cases and 5,376 of the total deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 4,171 residents test positive with 872 total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 2,637 residents test positive with 538 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,697 residents test positive with 428 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,552 residents test positive with 315 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 1,058 residents test positive with 168 total deaths, Warren’s seven facilities had 496 residents test positive with 102 total deaths and Sussex’s five facilities had 358 residents test positive with 104 total deaths.

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