North Jersey News Roundup for Dec. 30, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy is not slated to receive the COVID-19 vaccine anytime soon under current New Jersey protocols that places him and other public officials at the back of the line. “I recognize as role models, as public officials…there’s some benefit to being seen taking it,” said Murphy at a press briefing Dec. 28. “But when there’s a supply-demand imbalance as great as it is and you still have not gone through healthcare workers, long-term care residents, essential workers, folks meaningfully older than (me)…I just can’t justify it.”

New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson is joining President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to coordinate a national testing strategy for COVID-19. Johnson, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy after serving with Biden under President Barack Obama, will become testing coordinator responsible for expanding testing for the coronavirus with an emphasis on schools, nursing homes, at-risk populations, and communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The Record

President-elect Joe Biden praised former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as he urged President Donald Trump to “clearly and unambiguously promote mask wearing” to keep Americans safe from COVID-19. “I give former Governor Chris Christie credit,” Biden said in his speech Dec. 29, according to prepared remarks. “He and I disagree on most things. But I’m thankful he’s now encouraging people to do the right thing and wear a mask for themselves, their loved ones, and their country. I hope President Trump listens to him. He can do it, too. It would make a huge difference.”

The UK became the first country to approve use of easy-to-handle COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. AstraZeneca officials said the company could start shipping the first doses of the vaccine by Dec. 31, with vaccination getting to 1 million in a very short period of time. The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an attempt to hold an immediate vote on increasing stimulus checks to $2,000 from $600. Instead, Sen. McConnell introduced new legislation combining the $2,000 checks, election security and social media provisions into one bill, which would most likely doom the effort to increase aid. The New York Times

A pair of New Jersey’s Congress members are seeking answers on an alleged Russian-backed SolarWinds hack of the State Department and other federal agencies. Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Mikie Sherrill were among the voices calling for answers regarding the supposed Russian hack, arguing the Trump Administration was not taking the threat seriously enough.

A recruitment drive to enroll participants for Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine trial kicked off at a Hackensack Meridian Health facility. Volunteers are being enrolled in a double-blind trial at Jersey Shore Medical Center, which will study the effectiveness of a two-dose regimen as the New Jersey-based company seeks to give the public another vaccination option. Up to 30,000 adults over age 18 are expected to participate, half receiving a placebo and the other half will receive the vaccine.

Passaic County officials will launch a website to register residents for the county Health Department’s first set of COVID-19 vaccinations. The county is in possession of its first 500 doses that will be distributed free of charge starting Dec. 31. Given the limited supply, the online registration portal,, will initially be reserved for healthcare workers and high-risk populations. The Record

New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal recently unveiled a new use-of-force policy for law enforcement officers across the state, a sweeping series of changes he believes will help restore public trust in police. The police reform policy, which is the first of its kind in the United States, emphasizes de-escalation and calls for the use of force as a last resort by New Jersey’s 38,000 local, county and state law enforcement officers.

The Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office charged a Fort Drum soldier and a minor with the murder and kidnapping of a 20-year-old soldier found buried under snow in Byram Township. Pvt. Jamaal Mellish and the 16-year-old boy, whose identity has not been released were charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping, second-degree weapons charges, and other charges. New Jersey Herald

The New Jersey Globe will sponsor the first two debates in the race for the Republican nomination on Jan. 23 and Feb. 28, 2021. The criteria for participation in each gubernatorial debate is by qualifying for public financing from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission or by receiving endorsements from either two Republican county chairs or twelve Republican municipal chairs with at least one from each of six counties. Two of the candidates, Jack Ciattarelli and Doug Steinhardt, have met the criteria and have agreed to participate in the debate. A third announced candidate, Hirsh Singh, has not yet qualified. New Jersey Globe

And finally…Legendary N.J. principal Joe Clark, who inspired the movie ‘Lean on Me,’ died at the age of 82.

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