North Jersey News Roundup for Dec. 23, 2020

State officials attempted to clarify issues surrounding the arrival and plans for the COVID-19 vaccine, as they have come under fire for a delay in getting the shots to residents and staff in long-term care facilities. “Due to the number of individuals involved, this will take some time, but the vaccinations will be rolled out in an orderly manner, with vaccinations taking place at sites where the residents reside,” said New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judith Persichilli at a press briefing Dec. 21. “This proved to be a more complex task than first imagined.”

Managers at New Jersey’s veterans homes barred employees from wearing protective masks during the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic and devised a series of penalties against nurses who wore the homes’ masks without permission. The Murphy Administration said the policy was due to the homes’ inventory of personal protective equipment, such as masks, “was strained in March and painstaking steps were taken to ensure its proper usage.” The Record

President-elect Joe Biden is urging Americans to avoid large gatherings over the Christmas holidays, saying experts warn things will get worse before it gets better. “Here’s the simple truth: our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us,” says Biden. “So, we need to prepare ourselves to steel our spines, as frustrating as it is to hear, it’s going to take patience, persistence and determination to beat this virus.” News12 New Jersey

The Trump administration and Pfizer are reportedly close to a deal to bolster the supply of its COVID-19 vaccine for the U.S. by at least tens of millions of doses next year in exchange for a government directive giving it better access to manufacturing supplies. The agreement calls for the government to invoke the Defense Production Act to give the company better access to roughly nine specialized products it needs to make the vaccine. The New York Times

President Donald Trump threatened to veto the $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill, demanding checks to Americans be increased. Conflating the relief package inside the spending bill both Congressional houses approved, President Trump stated “It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID. Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people. I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000.” The New York Times

For Rep. Josh Gottheimer, perseverance paid off as the coronavirus stimulus bill he had been at the forefront of fighting for was finally passed by the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. “Coming together, understanding that we should not let perfect be the enemy of the good, and that the American people should always come before partisan politics,“ said Gottheimer “This is about actually governing. It is not the one that gets you clicks, but it is how you get a bill done.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said it’s “a 50/50 shot” whether President Donald Trump will attend President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. “I would encourage him…to go, because it would help him to restore some of the norms of the presidency which need to be restored for historical purposes, but more importantly, for our future,” said Christie. “He will leave the White House unassisted, I’m confident of that. Whether he’ll go quietly… I’ve never seen him do anything quietly.”

President Donald Trump granted 15 pardons and five commutations Dec. 22 including to a former campaign adviser whose activities set off the Mueller probe, three former congressmen and several former military contractors convicted of wartime killing of Iraqi civilians. Among those he pardoned were George Papadopoulos, four military contractors accused of killing more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in a 2007 incident in a Baghdad traffic circle at the height of the Iraq war and clemency for congressman Chris Collins (R-NY), Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Steve Stockman (R-TX). The Wall Street Journal

Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona will be nominated to be Secretary of Education in the Biden Administration. The selection of Cardona, who has pressed schools to remain open for in-person classes during the pandemic, fulfills the President-elect’s campaign promise to name an educator with public school experience as his nominee for the post as well as adding another Latino to his roster of Cabinet appointees. PoliticoNJ

Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans to construct a $250 million manufacturing plant to build wind turbine components at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal. The state-of-the-art factory will produce steel components known as monopoles for eventual windfarms off the Jersey coast as well as across the nation.

A Sussex County man was recently charged by Federal officials for fraudulently obtaining $5.6 million in loans distributed under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP funding was acquired by Newton-based Azhar Sarwar Rana, who was charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of money laundering. Rana was arrested Dec. 12 after booking a same-day flight to Pakistan.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission closed agencies in Lodi and Flemington Dec. 22 after employees there tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 16 of the state’s 39 locations currently closed. Besides Lodi, which will reopen Jan. 2, 2021, North Jersey locations now temporarily shuttered include Jersey City, Paterson, Bayonne, Wayne, Newark and North Bergen.

Sussex County Freeholders approved refinancing of the last of its solar project bonds in a move that will save the county $2.3 million over the next seven years. Additionally, the freeholders approved contract extensions for County Administrator Gregory Poff  and County Engineer William Koppenaal for five years as well as County Treasurer Elke Yetter and Clerk of the Board Teresa Lyons for three years. New Jersey Herald

State Senator Joe Pennacchio along with Assemblyman Jay Webber and Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce announced their reelection bids for the 26th Legislative District in 2021. The three Republican lawmakers will run on a platform of promising to keep fighting for overburdened taxpayers and small businesses. Insider NJ

And finally…Your cash is no good any longer at the Holland Tunnel as it is the the first Port Authority Hudson River crossing to use cashless toll collections. 

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