North Jersey News Roundup for Sept. 23, 2020

New Jersey in its weekly update added five states to its COVID-19 travel advisory list as new infection cases were over 400 for the 11th time in the last 14 days and all 21 counties now have at least a 1,000 cases cumulatively. The updated advisory includes five additional states—Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Wyoming—bringing the total to 35 states and territories.

Gloucester and Ocean fit the criteria as the state uses for its travel advisory. Gloucester, has 10.4 cases per 100,000 residents, would have fallen under this criteria since Sept. 10, while  Ocean County, with 13.5 cases per 100,000 residents, would have been added to the list as of late last week.

U.S. coronavirus deaths surpassed 200,000 on Sept. 23. The U.S. continues to lead the world in deaths and confirmed cases, with about 6.9 million infections since the coronavirus emerged in January, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. Despite accounting for 4% of the global population, the U.S. has recorded about 20% of the world’s coronavirus deaths. Health experts have urged the country to stay on guard, as more schools and businesses reopen and people spend more time indoors. PoliticoNJ

The New Jersey legislature is looking to put some teeth into Gov. Phil Murphy’s mask mandate, as one Assemblyman stated “there needs to be some sort of penalty to drive home the point that this mandate is not optional.” The state’s Assembly Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would penalize customers who enter stores without a mask in an effort to increase usage in New Jersey. Legislators sponsoring the bill say it is a response of too many Americans refusing to wear one in public during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill proposes fining an individual up to $500 for entering or remaining in a New Jersey store without properly wearing a mask that covers both their nose and mouth if the store has signage indicating a mask requirement.

Nursing homes in New Jersey would have to meet minimum staffing quotas for the frontline workers under a measure approved by legislative committees in the Senate and Assembly. The bills call for one certified nurse aide for every eight residents for the day shift, one direct care staff member to no more than 10 residents for the evening shift, and one direct care staff member is needed for every 14 residents for the night shift.

Legislative committees voted along party lines for a $32.7 billion, nine-month budget negotiated among Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats who control both houses in the Legislature. The full Senate and Assembly are scheduled to take up the bills Sept. 24, ahead of the Oct. 1 start of the new, abbreviated fiscal year. Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-24) wondered why the state will surpass last year’s pre-pandemic spending despite the Murphy administration’s predictions the pandemic and economic crises will continue to depress tax revenues. “To spend more than we spent last year, pre-pandemic, is really tough for me to fathom,” he said. News12 New Jersey

New Jersey Republican legislators decried a plan by Gov. Phil Murphy adopted into the 2021 budget to hike taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents to bring relief to the middle class from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Republican Budget Officer Steven Oroho (R-24) called it “a bad economic move that will only dig the Garden State into a deeper financial hole over the long run. Year after year, IRS data shows that New Jersey continues to lose significantly more taxable income from high wage earners leaving the state than it gains from those who are moving in from elsewhere.”

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association is expected to receive $625,000 in aid from the Legislature to help offset losses the state’s governing body of high school sports says it’s incurring due to the coronavirus pandemic. The appropriation can only be used to replace losses of revenue due to COVID-19 and additional expenses not anticipated due to the coronavirus. The NJSIAA shall not use any of the grant funds for new administrative hires. The Daily Record

The Sussex County Board of Elections announced a number of protocol updates have been put in place to prevent a repeat of ballots being misplaced which happened for the July primary. For the upcoming general election, all ballot processing will take place at the Board of Elections office in Newton, implement multiple steps to count ballots throughout the process, and rent a paper ballot counter for the November election. New Jersey Herald

Essex County is looking for college-aged students to help run polls for the 2020 election, launching a recruitment drive as a way to bring younger people to help. Poll workers are often senior citizens but with seniors among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, officials are hoping this would give younger and “socially conscious” people a chance to man the polls. The Record

The House of Representatives passed a short-term spending bill keeping the government funded through Dec. 11, after Democrats reached a deal with the White House over farm aid and food assistance. The agreement would add to the spending bill $21 billion sought by the White House for the Commodity Credit Corp. designed to stabilize farm incomes that permits borrowing as much as $30 billion from the Treasury to finance its activities. The agreement prohibits any payments from going to fossil fuel refiners and importers, a concern of Democrats, and includes roughly $8 billion in additional nutrition funding. The Wall Street Journal

Gov. Phil Murphy called out the “rank hypocrisy” of GOP Senators when it comes to the appointment of a Supreme Court justice in the wake of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Murphy, who is the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said at a press briefing Sept. 21 that Republicans “want to ram a nominee through six weeks before a presidential election, when just four years ago they refused to offer even a hearing to a nominee whose name was put forward eight months before an election.”

Sen. Bob Menendez excoriated Republicans for rushing to replace the late U.S Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I fear the rush to replace her—with just 44 days left before the next presidential election—will have grave consequences for the lives of millions of Americans,” Menendez said. “Everything Americans care about and depend on is on the line— starting first and foremost with their health care.” Menendez called President Trump’s decision to nominate a new associate justice this week “dangerous for democracy.” New Jersey Globe

And finally…Tommy DeVito, an original Four Seasons member, dies of COVID-19 at 92.

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