Three Assemblywomen will introduce legislation requiring school districts to provide remote instruction to start the 2020-2021 school year due to the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus.
“The reality is the pandemic isn’t over. School is set to begin in just a few weeks, and it is not clear that a safe and comfortable environment can be maintained for students and staff,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27), chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee in a press statement.
“I understand that New Jersey has made strong progress in combating COVID-19, but reopening schools for in-person instruction would feel like a step backward at this time,” stated Jasey, a former South Orange-Maplewood board of education member and a public health nurse.
School Year Start
Under the proposed bill, being sponsored by Jasey along with Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-6), and Joann Downey (D-11), public schools would begin the 2020-2021 school year with solely virtual or remote instruction, with the exception of special education and related services needed to be delivered in person.
Beginning Oct. 31, reopening schools for in-person instruction would be evaluated on a monthly basis by Gov. Phil Murphy, along with the New Jersey’s commissioners of education and health.
The bill would make reopening contingent upon a number of factors, including New Jersey’s phased reopening and public health data on the spread of COVID-19. School districts would develop guidelines and plans for in-person instruction that adhere to public health guidance.
Additionally, under the proposed measure, school districts may delay the start of the 2020-2021 school year by up to two weeks from the district’s regular start date. If a district chooses this option, it must conduct professional development for teachers on delivering virtual or remote instruction.
“We’ve heard from school administrators, medical professionals, educators, students, and parents on school reopening, and the common sentiment being expressed is the same—our schools lack the guidance and support needed to safely reopen,” said Lampitt (D-6), chair of the Assembly Education Committee.
Lampitt said while in-person learning produces the best educational outcome, “until we can ensure the safety of our students and school staff, we must focus our efforts on how we can enhance remote and virtual learning to provide students with the highest quality education possible.”
The proposal comes a week after the governor revealed plans offering parents the choice to have students learn remotely. But in the following days, he has reiterated that some version of in-person learning is needed.
At his press briefing July 29, he pushed back on the notion that a “rising chorus” is against schools opening in September.
“With all due respect, there’s a strong chorus on both sides of this,” said Murphy. “There are lots of communities in our state…where in-person education is not only a richer experience but it is an essential experience with no other alternative. There’s no one-size-fits-all here, and I cannot say that strongly enough.”
As of July 30, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 180,766 with 261 new cases and 16 new deaths, bringing that total to 13,934. The state probable death count remained at 1,875, bringing the overall total to 15,809.
The state reported five deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,857, followed by Bergen at 1,785, Hudson with 1,330, Passaic at 1,091, Morris at 677, Sussex at 158 and Warren with 157.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 255, Essex has 243, Hudson has 169, both Passaic and Morris at 151, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 14.
As for the rate of transmission, it was unchanged at 1.14. Officials have continually cited transmission rate—which measures the rate each new case leads to how many additional cases—as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 769 patients are hospitalized. The north tier had 334 patients hospitalized, the central 224 and the south 201.
Of those hospitalized, 123 are in intensive care units and 51 on ventilators, while 58 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 20,412, followed by Hudson at 19,434, Essex at 19,441, Middlesex at 17,626, Passaic at 17,384, Union at 16,456, Ocean at 10,356, Monmouth at 10,004, Camden at 8,240, Mercer at 8,000, Morris at 7,109, Burlington at 5,732, Somerset at 5,170, Atlantic at 3,331, Cumberland at 3,184, Gloucester at 3,031, Warren at 1,326, Sussex at 1,293, Hunterdon at 1,125, Salem at 867 and Cape May at 803.
Another 646 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state.
In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 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 confirmed deaths shows 47% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 33% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted currently 300 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 21,490 of the cases, broken down between 14,034 residents and 7,456 staff.
Cumulatively, 604 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,704 residents and 12,887 staff, for a total of 37,591 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 6,911 on July 30. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,702 residents deaths and 120 staff deaths.