North Jersey News Roundup for Sept. 14, 2020

State officials say the daily positive percent rate among young adults for the coronavirus has climbed to a level that is “really striking” compared to the rest of the residents in New Jersey. Cases numbers have climbed to 6.0% amongst the ages of 19-24, the highest percent positivity in the state. Right behind them is the 14-18 age cohort, with a percent positivity of 4.0%.

At least 10 New Jersey colleges and universities have reported students and a few staff testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks into September, with Rowan University leading the in both comprehensive data and known coronavirus cases. Of 190 COVID-19 cases confirmed by Rowan since the start of the fall semester, 102 of them have been among off campus students and have not been on Rowan campuses during their infectious period.

At least six New Jersey school districts announced schedule changes just days into the academic year in response to coronavirus cases among students and staff. Of the six, two are in North Jersey. Frankford Township in Sussex County is temporarily switching to virtual instruction for its pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school after a student tested positive for the coronavirus. Chatham High School switched to remote learning two days into the district’s planned hybrid school year after a student tested positive for the coronavirus.

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Sue Fulton sought to assure the public that the commission is effectively doing its job while acknowledging the long lines that have frustrated residents and lawmakers in North Jersey. “We know during this pandemic, it’s been very difficult. The lines have been awful. I’ve been out there, I’ve heard the complaints,” said Fulton at a press briefing with Gov. Phil Murphy Sept. 11. “We know that a lot of these places are really overcrowded. There are several of our northern agencies that are just swamped and it’s very difficult.”

The Murphy administration wants a judge to dismiss a claim of retaliation made by a former assistant health commissioner who was fired after helping lead the state through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state alleges Christopher Neuwirth’s complaint “is full of incendiary, self-serving, and at times conclusory, allegations purporting to detail the reasons why he (incorrectly) believes he was terminated from state employment” wrote a state lawyer in the filing. The state is asserting Neuwirth’s termination would have been justified for several reasons, all of which are unrelated to any protected activity New Jersey’s whistleblower law, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act. New Jersey Herald

Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver have gone on record not supporting calls to “defund the police,” which sprung up among activists in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in May. Oliver, the state’s highest ranking Black official, rejected the concept, stating “To law enforcement, I want to share a message with you: We need you, we appreciate you, and want you to know with all the noise that’s going on, we will never defund you.” Murphy added “It’s less about what you’re doing with law enforcement than it is what you’re doing with the surrounding community investments. What’s your holistic overall investment look like?”

OPINION: Washington Proves it is Broken Yet Again. The U.S. Senate failed to pass a much needed coronavirus aid package last, seen as the final chance for Congressional leaders and the White House to forge a compromise on an economic stimulus bill. Now, there are no talks planned. There are no meetings set to address the financial issues crushing states. There is no more money set aside for those unemployed. There is just finger pointing at who is at fault.

Moderate House Democrats are growing concerned about stalled coronavirus relief negotiations, with vulnerable members starting to push Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders to take action to break the stalemate. Some Democrats have suggested passing smaller, more targeted coronavirus relief bills in the House, which many hope would stand a chance in the Senate or at least restart talks. But the idea was rejected by party leaders due to it weakening Democrats’ efforts to secure a broader relief package. PoliticoNJ

Sen. Bob Menendez intends to seek re-election in 2024. “That’s still four years away, but right now, yes,” Menendez said in a radio interview. Menendez, re-elected for a third term in 2018, would become the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if Democrats can capture control of the U.S. Senate in November. New Jersey Globe

Toll increases went effect on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway Sept. 13. The average Turnpike toll for passenger vehicles increases by $1.30, and the cash toll at a Garden State Parkway mainline toll plaza rises to $1.90 from $1.50. 

The Jersey City Council introduced an ordinance creating a Quality-of-Life Division under the Department of Public Safety. According to the introductory ordinance, the current structure of Jersey City enforcement is unique when compared to other New Jersey cities in that it has seven administrative units across four departments responsible for enforcement of local ordinances and state administrative code. By consolidating code enforcement into a new Division of Quality of Life, the city would “further increase the efficacy of code enforcement and compliance.” Hudson Reporter

And finally…Jersey City is considering reducing fees for food trucks, dropping a $200 per day charge. The Jersey Journal

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