North Jersey News Roundup for Jan. 28, 2021

The Biden Administration is altering the COVID-19 vaccine schedule to give states a larger window of what doses they will receive. New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the state is scheduled to receive approximately 130,000 doses a week during the three week time span, up from the 105,000 the state most recently received. Previously, the federal government released those figures on a week-to-week basis. The doses will be allocated for the sites other than long-term care facilities, which has its own set aside from the federal government.

More cases of the highly-contagious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the United Kingdom have been identified in New Jersey, with at least one death associated with the variant. Four of the cases have been found in Ocean County, two of them in Essex County and two in Morris County. They were discovered in people between ages 10 and 65 years old and linked to the death of one person who had significant underlying conditions. One of those infected with the variant had a history of international travel.

A Pfizer laboratory study found coronavirus variant identified in the U.K. and South Africa had only small impacts on the effectiveness of antibodies generated by the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. The antibodies were slightly less effective against mutations in the variant identified in South Africa. The Wall Street Journal

Johnson & Johnson expects to release early data next week from the Phase 3 clinical trials of its vaccine. The company, whose vaccine only requires one shot, reached an agreement last year to deliver 100 million doses to the federal government if it is approved for usage. News12 New Jersey

The union representing teachers of the Montclair School District informed its members that the district is planning on taking them to court over their decision to not return to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A memo from the Montclair Education Association stated “We always have been, and still are, committed to a mediation process. We will provide additional details when we are permitted to do so.” School officials confirmed they are in consultation with lawyers on the next step to take as it attempts to resume in-person schooling.

Rep. Bill Pascrell is quarantining after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. The 84-year-old congressman, who underwent heart surgery in July 2020, is not showing any symptoms and will be tested later this week. PoliticoNJ

A special investigator was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to review allegations of beatings at the state’s only women’s prison. The governor appointed former state comptroller Matthew Boxer to investigate a Jan. 11 incident at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility that has led to the suspension of 30 staff members. Murphy said the report should be finished in an “expedited fashion” and “any individual who acted improperly will be held fully accountable.”

The State Senate Commerce Committee recently advanced legislation to establish a county-based mitigation plan to allow businesses to operate during a pandemic. The risk of the disease spreading within the State would be categorized by color-coded system, establishing appropriate thresholds for reaching each category. Additionally, State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25)  is calling on Murphy to remove the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars to open later for Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day.

A Byram Township police officer fired for “inappropriate” Facebook posts about race relations last Summer is seeking to be reinstated and claiming his freedom of speech was violated. William Underwood was suspended in June 2020 and terminated on Jan. 4, six months after the township received complaints about the rookie cop’s words in a heated debate with other local posters in June, as protests spread across Sussex County and the rest of the nation after George Floyd was killed by police. New Jersey Herald

The Department of Homeland Security stated the United States faces a growing threat from “violent domestic extremists” emboldened by the U.S. Capitol riot for the first time publicly. The department’s terrorism alert did not name specific groups that might be behind any future attacks, but it made clear that their motivation would include anger over “the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives,” a reference to the accusations made by former President Donald Trump and echoed by right-wing groups that the 2020 election was stolen. The New York Times

Gov. Phil Murphy has reportedly set a deadline for Jan. 29 to reach an agreement with legislative leaders on marijuana legalization and decriminalization legislation. Murphy has objected to inconsistent language in both bills passed by lawmakers that eliminated penalties for underage individuals caught in possession of the drug. If the administration hasn’t brokered a compromise on a clean-up bill before Friday, the governor plans to conditionally veto the measure. PoliticoNJ

The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a lower court decision that NJ Transit is owed $400 million in flood insurance for damages from Superstorm Sandy. The decision follows a yearslong court battle between the transit agency and insurance groups that argued NJ Transit was only entitled to $100 million after sustaining damage from the 2012 storm. The Record

The state’s Board of Public Utilities approved PSE&G plan to spend up to $166.2 million over the next six years to build the charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Under that plan, PSE&G’s investment would be part of a multiprong program to install 40,000 EV chargers at residential homes, 3,500 EV chargers at 800 commercial locations, and 1,000 fast-charging stations at 300 locations off major highways.

Assemblywomen Aura Dunn (R-25) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) cosponsored legislation requiring parents to notify the childcare center if their child will be absent that day. Additionally, the law mandates childcare centers who does not receive this notification to immediately attempt to get in touch with the a parent to question the child’s absence.

Republican State Sen. Kip Bateman will not seek re-election this year. The 63-year-old Somerset County lawmaker will serve out the remainder of his fourth term in the Senate, which expires in January 2022. The moderate Republican, who underwent heart surgery a few weeks ago, was expected to face a tough re-election bid this November. New Jersey Globe

Developers filed a second federal suit accusing Englewood of discriminating against people with disabilities and Orthodox Jewish community members. The developers, seeking to build a CareOne assisted-living facility in an area not zoned for that use, claim the city’s current zoning code is unconstitutional because it allows assisted-living facilities in only a small part of town, discriminating against people who cannot travel to that area. The new suit is similar to the one filed against the city in June 2019. The Record

Investment returns for New Jersey’s public-worker pension fund have been soaring in recent months. Preliminary figures reviewed by members of the State Investment Council indicated overall investment returns totaled nearly 15% for the first half of the current fiscal year, topping the pension system’s assumed rate of 7.3% for long-term investment earnings. NJ Spotlight News

And finally….Friday forecast highs will be the coldest in two years in New Jersey. News12 New Jersey 

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