North Jersey News Roundup for Aug. 24, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy indicated the state is moving closer to having gyms open that have been shut down due to the coronavirus as compared to indoor dining. Murphy stated at his Aug. 21 press briefing, “I think we’re getting very close on some steps we could take and gyms would be on that list.” Earlier, the governor conceded that opening announcements for gyms and indoor dining would not be made at the same time “for the simple reason, being able to functionally wear face coverings at all times versus not at all times is a fairly significant bright line on indoor activities.”

A bill to end the use of Freeholder as a title for county leaders was signed into law. Under the new measure, all current Freeholder positions will be retitled as “County Commissioners” beginning at the start of next year. Additionally, the term “Boards of Chosen Freeholders” will be replaced with “Boards of County Commissioners.” The changes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The Record

Gov. Phil Murphy will deliver the second draft of his budget proposal on Aug. 24 after a previous version unveiled earlier this year was scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic. Murphy’s spending plan will cover just nine months instead of the typical 12 after an agreement that delayed the start of the state’s traditional fiscal year by three months. A new state budget must be in place by Oct. 1. NJ Spotlight

New Jersey’s major power companies won’t shut off gas and electricity to customers who don’t pay their bills during the coronavirus pandemic until mid-October. The moratorium against service shutoffs now runs through Oct. 15 and applies to both residential and commercial customers. Additionally, the utility companies are offering Deferred Payment Agreements of anywhere from 12 to 24 months, with no down payments required. The Daily Record

The entire New Jersey’s House delegation, including two Republicans, voted to increase Postal Service funding and roll back changes to Post Office operations blamed for delaying mail delivery. Reps. Jeff Van Drew and Chris Smith were among the 26 House Republicans who voted in favor of the Post Office bill on Aug. 22. The Senate will not vote on the bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of serious coronavirus cases. The agency’s emergency-use authorization permits use of the treatment on hospitalized COVID-19 patients and opens up the possibility for faster and easier access to a promising treatment. But the FDA said more clinical studies are necessary for definitive proof of the therapy’s effectiveness. The Wall Street Journal

A detective with the Newark Police Department died from coronavirus complications Aug. 23. Detective Irving Callender, 43, leaves behind a wife and two sons. News12 New Jersey

The number of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. reached its lowest level in more than two months, notching a ninth straight day with fewer than 50,000 new cases. The nation reported 34,567 new cases on Aug. 23, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the lowest since June 22 when the U.S. reported 30,536 new cases. The states driving the decrease all have at least some local mask mandates, and most have paused or reversed statewide reopening policies, again closing bars, gyms and theaters. The New York Times

OPINION: It is irresponsible for a candidate to be on the campaign trail in 2020 without a mask as well as making sure their supporters are socially distancing at campaign events. Leadership on the issue of how the coronavirus was and continues to be handled is the defining issue for the Nov. 3 election. Frank Pallotta and President Donald Trump must lead by example when it comes to wearing a face mask while campaigning this Fall.

The Republican National Convention begins Aug. 24, themed “Honoring the Great American Story.” The convention will feature prominently a number of well-known Trump supporters, including members of the Trump family, but also those whom the GOP say are members of the “silent majority” of Americans who have been aided by Trump’s policies. News12 New Jersey

Kellyanne Conway, one of President Donald Trump’s most influential and longest serving advisers, announced she would leave the White House at the end of the month. A New Jersey native, Conway cited a need to spend time with her four children in a resignation letter she posted. Her husband George, an outspoken Trump critic, will step away from his political activities as well.

Considered two of the key bellwether Congressional races in the country, the major party nominees seeking to represent the 5th and 11th Districts are focused on connecting with voters in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. How Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill and their respective GOP challengers Frank Pallotta and Rosemary Becchi are meeting New Jerseyans has changed—Zoom rallies for instance—as they navigate the protocols aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus as they attempt to win over voters.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) will seek to intervene in a lawsuit filed in federal court by Donald Trump’s re-election campaign challenging vote-by-mail elections in New Jersey on behalf of Gov. Phil Murphy. The DCCC is expected to join the case as an interested third party to oppose the Trump campaign’s bid to invalidate an executive order issued by Murphy that will automatically send mail-in ballots to nearly 5.8 million voters. New Jersey Globe

The NFL revealed several false positive COVID-19 tests were found by one of its testing partners, based in Bergen County. The league asked Elmwood Park-based BioReference to investigate the results “while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests.” The NFL did not identify the teams or say how many tests were positive. 

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced nearly all outdoor Fall sports will start practice on Sept. 14. Girls tennis will begin competition on Sept. 28, followed by cross country, field hockey and soccer on Oct. 1, and opening day for the football season Oct. 2. Gymnastics and girls volleyball are being moved to a new carved out schedule—Season 3—that has the start date of practices as Feb. 16, 2021.

And finally…James Cotten, New Jerseyan who served with Tuskegee Airmen, died at 93 over the weekend. New Jersey Globe

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