mother helping her daughter use a laptop

Assembly Bills Seek to Remedy Education Issues Caused by Coronavirus Pandemic in New Jersey

A pair of bills in Trenton seeking to remedy education issues brought on by the coronavirus were recently passed by the Assembly Education Committee.

The first bill (A-5126) calls for two reports on learning loss and the overall impact of COVID-19 on public schools and their efficacy. The second bill (A-5147) would create the Alleviating Learning Loss in New Jersey Grant Program, designed to help school districts as they address gaps in learning spurred by lockdown measures.

The action comes as recent student assessments of the Fall 2020 found students had only covered 67% of the math curriculum and 87% of the reading curriculum that grade-level peers would have learned in the prior year.

Reporting on the Impact of COVID-19

Of the two reports required under A-5126, one would focus on learning loss and the impact of COVID-19 on student academic outcomes. The second would target the continuation of school services during the pandemic.

The reports would be used to analyze district size, grade levels, and academic subjects where COVID-19 lockdowns caused the most harm. Additionally, it would focus on other topics, including social-emotional supports, childcare programs, and standardized testing.

Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Angela McKnight (D-31) and Pamela Lampitt (D-6) served as prime sponsors for the measure.

“Though our teachers have done a remarkable job in continuing our children’s education, Zoom learning cannot replace hands-on lessons,” said Vainieri Huttle. “A group activity over a virtual chat box is no substitute for students playing outside with their friends at recess; and an emailed greeting cannot match a teacher’s smile and wave hello as students takes their seats in a traditional classroom.”

Funding Gaps in Education Due to COVID-19

The other bill, A-5147, sponsored by Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D-27) and Annette Quijano (D-20) along with Lampitt (D-6), would provide funding to schools looking to address gaps—including the digital divide—in education spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic under the Alleviating Learning Loss in New Jersey Grant Program.

All school districts, charter schools and renaissance schools would be eligible to apply for the program. Schools would provide a description of initiatives to be created or expanded and how they will address learning loss, among other information.

“Remote learning looks different for every student across New Jersey. Some have access to laptops, a designated space for learning and assistance from parents or siblings, while others lack internet connection, devices or a comfortable place to do their schoolwork,” said Assemblywoman Jasey.

Both bills would task the New Jersey Department of Education will fulfilling the goals outlined in the legislation.

Daily Data

Over the Jan. 30 and 31 weekend, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 623,541 with 8,459 total new PCR cases reported. There were 1,510 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 73,288. The total number of individual cases for the state is 696,829. Gov. Murphy noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.

As for those that have passed, the state reported 103 new deaths over the two days, bringing that total to 19,355. The state listed probable deaths at 2,129, bringing the overall total to 21,448. State officials noted 99 deaths occurred in the last 48 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on Jan, 31, Bergen had a total of 372 new confirmed cases and 67 probable cases, Essex 351 new cases and 69 probable cases, Hudson 369 new cases and 43 probable cases, Morris 233 new cases and and 48 probable cases, Passaic 248 new cases and 38 probable cases, Sussex 41 new cases and eight probable cases, and Warren 35 cases and two probable cases.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,284, followed by Bergen at 2,206, Hudson with 1,696, Passaic at 1,439, Morris at 844, Sussex at 199 and Warren County at 1843.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 268, Essex has 255, Morris at 207, Hudson has 171, Passaic at 163, Sussex has 53 and Warren has 15.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Jan. 27, was 8.7%; by region, the rate was 8.7% in the North, 9.1% in the Central region and 8.0% in the South. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. 

As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 0.94 from 0.91 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 2,901 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,288 in the North, 917 in the Central and 696 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 519 are in intensive care units and 355 on ventilators. A total of 790 patients were discharged over the weekend, while 575 were admitted.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 60,252, followed by Essex at 59,974, Middlesex at 59,768, Hudson at 56,735, Passaic at 47,247,Ocean at 44,860, Monmouth at 44,735, Union at 44,582, Camden at 36,454, Burlington at 27,939, Morris at 27,732, Mercer at 23,710, Gloucester at 19,137, Atlantic at 17,264, Somerset at 16,357, Cumberland at 10,786, Sussex at 6,917, Warren at 5,485, Hunterdon at 5,350, Salem at 3,903, and Cape May at 3,200.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,001, followed by Union at 6,675, Ocean at 5,369, Essex at 5,187, Hudson at 4,656, Morris at 4,585, Monmouth at 4,374, Atlantic at 4,342, Middlesex at 4,188, Passaic at 4,015, Camden at 3,948, Burlington at 3,638, Somerset at 3,589, Cape May at 3,012, Gloucester at 2,770, Cumberland at 2,055, Mercer at 1,334, Sussex at 930, Warren at 593, Hunterdon at 547, and Salem 433.

Another 1,154 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 131 outbreaks involving 597 cases, with 10 new outbreaks accounting for 32 cases reported in the weekly update, have been reported in all 21 counties in the Garden State. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 29 confirmed outbreaks with 121 cases, Passaic County has five confirmed outbreaks with 25 cases, Sussex has five confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases, Warren has five confirmed outbreaks with 12 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 91 cases and Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 425 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 15,616 of the cases, broken down between 7,514 residents and 8,102 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,225 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,302 residents and 21,454 staff, for a total of 53,756 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,748 on Jan. 29. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,703 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 785,588 as of Jan. 31. Of those who have received the vaccine, 656,174 residents have received their first dose with 125,612 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer. 

Demographically, 60% of those vaccinated are women and 40% men. As for ethnicity, 48% are White, 19% unknown, 19% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 3% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 35% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 28% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 86,813 doses, Essex 62,777 doses, Hudson 36,437 doses, Morris 58,242 doses, Passaic 36,853 doses, Sussex 13,151 doses, and Warren 8,018 doses. 

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