North Jersey News Roundup for Nov. 18, 2020

New Jersey’s Department of Health (NJDOH) provided guidelines to long-term care facilities on visitation policies for the holidays, even as the state’s health commissioner is warning against these type of gatherings. “The department strongly recommends against families taking residents out of the facilities for holiday celebration or gatherings,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Individuals at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid gatherings with individuals that they don’t live with.” For the holiday season, NJDOH is recommending instead of family visits where the resident leaves the facility, visitation take place outdoors at the facilities or be held indoors in accordance with safety protocols.

Pfizer says that more interim results from its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19. The announcement comes as the company is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine. Philadelphia Inquirer

The Food and Drug Administration allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed and developed entirely at home. The emergency authorization to the 30-minute test kit from Lucira Health allows users to swab themselves to collect a nasal sample. The sample is then swirled in a vial that plugs into a portable device, that interprets the results and displays whether the person tested positive or negative for coronavirus. News12 New Jersey

Rep. Josh Gottheimer met with members of both parties in the Senate and House of Representatives to discuss a way forward on a stimulus bill. “People are really hurting,” said Gottheimer. “The idea that we’re going to play games, that either side is going to posture while people are in dire need of help, is to me just pathetic. People have a right to be pissed off. Both sides have to go in there with good faith and understand they’re not going to get everything they want.”

One more state has been added to New Jersey’s travel advisory for the coronavirus, setting a new high of 46 states and territories considered COVID-19 hotspots and that require a 14-day quarantine. Vermont was the latest state to be added, with the only remaining state that doesn’t meet the criteria to be on the list is Hawaii. CBS2 New York

Hackensack school officials say virtual instruction will continue through mid-January, and possibly longer. The decision is based on the school anticipating constant disruption to daily operations for students, their families, and our staff as the coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Republican members of the Wayne County, MI, elections board reversed their decision not to certify Detroit’s election results in an effort to hold up President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump after an outcry from the city’s voters and state officials. The turnaround capped a chaotic day in the President’s attempts to find a path for victory as Republicans lost a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, faced a skeptical reception in a separate hearing in federal court in Pennsylvania, and an audit in Georgia confirmed there was no foul play with voting machines. The New York Times

President Donald Trump fired his administration’s most senior cybersecurity official responsible for securing the Presidential election who had disputed the President’s declarations the election was stolen through fraudulent ballots and software glitches that changed millions of votes. The President tweeted the firing of his appointee Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, stating “the recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate in that there were massive improprieties and fraud—including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” The Wall Street Journal

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) praised Gov. Phil Murphy for not renominating Superior Court Judge Marcia Silva for a tenured term. “I think Gov. Murphy’s made the right decision in not renominating Judge Silva to the Superior Court,” Vainieri Huttle said. “I think we’ve seen time and again that sexual assault survivors are retraumatized as they navigate the justice system.” Vainieri Huttle was one of more than 20 state lawmakers who called for Silva to resign after she said the alleged rape of a 12-year-old caused no physical, mental or emotional harm apart from the loss of her virginity. New Jersey Globe

The two Democrats running in the special election for State Senate and Assembly have conceded, clearing the way for GOP incumbents State Sen. Anthony Bucco and Assemblywoman Aura Dunn to return to Trenton representing the 25th Legislative District. After an update by county officials Nov. 16, Bucco’s lead over Democratic challenger Rupande Mehta stood at 9,871 votes, while Dunn’s lead over Democratic challenger Darcy Draeger is currently 6,085.

The number of voters who “cure” their mail-in ballots and who voted in the Newton Town Council race could decide which two of the three top vote-getters will be elected. The Sussex County Board of Elections has notified about 950 voters, nearly all of them vote-by-mail, that they need to provide additional information before their ballot can be opened and counted, with a deadline of Nov. 19. The unofficial vote total in Newton has newcomer Michelle Teets leading with 1,114 votes, followed by incumbent councilwoman Helen R. Le Frois who had 1,054 votes and John-Paul Coucellied with 1,090 votes. New Jersey Herald

The five new Democratic members of the Legislative Apportionment Commission agreed in writing to vote as a block to avoid any deals with Republicans in drawing a new map. The appointees—Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, Senate President Steve Sweeney, former McGreevey Chief of Staff Gary Taffet, West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo and Fairview Borough Administrator Diane Testa—signed an eight-point agreement that would bind them to a final map approved by a majority of the Democratic members. New Jersey Globe

Academy Bus LLC allegedly defrauded NJ Transit (NJT) by not reporting missed bus trips, according to a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. The state is intervening in a whistleblower lawsuit against the company. The suit alleges Academy defrauded NJT by more than $15 million by vastly underreporting the number of scheduled trips the company missed. Additionally, the company charged fees for hours and miles driven, even though those trips never happened.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is expected to sign off on a debt sale that will bring in more than $4 billion to help sustain the state budget during the lingering coronavirus pandemic. The general-obligation bond issue was priced a day earlier than had been expected due to strong interest among investors. The total interest cost of the tax-exempt debt issue, pending final approval from administration officials, is expected to be just under 2%. NJ Spotlight News

And finally…Montclair’s historic Crane House a top contender for nation’s best holiday home display. The Record

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