North Jersey News Roundup for Feb. 4, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the capacity limit would be increased for indoor dining and other various indoor gatherings in New Jersey effective Feb. 5. The executive order increases capacity limits to 35% from the current 25% and allows restaurants to stay open past 10 p.m. Besides bars and restaurants, the order allows gyms, casinos, personal care businesses, and amusement and recreation facilities to operate at 35% and indoor performance venues, political activities, and gatherings for religious ceremonies and services at the new capacity limit with a maximum of 150 individuals. “While some of our numbers are still high, we believe that we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress on our healthcare system,” stated Murphy as a press briefing Feb. 3.

Jersey City and Hoboken will allow bars and restaurants to operate during normal, regular business hours without a local curfew. Officials from both cities stated a coordinated regional approach is the best way to implement safety measures and authorities will be “aggressively” monitoring all bars and restaurants during overnight hours to ensure COVID-19 safety precautions are being taken at all times. Insider NJ

One-fourth of adults surveyed by Monmouth University nationwide said they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine. Fifty percent of respondents said they wanted to be vaccinated as soon as possible, while 6% already have been vaccinated against the virus. Another 19% said they would let others go ahead of them. But 24% said they wouldn’t get a shot under any circumstances, including 42% of self-identified Republicans, 10% of Democrats and 25% of Independents.

President Joe Biden told Democrats he’s open to refining key elements of his nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package proposal, while stressing the urgency of delivering a massive relief bill quickly to the pandemic-stricken nation. During a call with the House Democratic Caucus, Biden said he was willing to compromise on who will be eligible for the next round stimulus checks—but remained firm on the size of the $1,400 payment. PoliticoNJ

A top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said the vaccination of teachers is not a “prerequisite” for safely reopening schools. “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky during a White House media briefing on COVID-19. The statement is in line with President Joe Biden’s advocating for schools to reopen and to stay open.

McKinsey & Co. has reached a $573 million settlement with states over its work advising OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and other drug manufacturers to aggressively market opioid painkillers. The deal, reached with 47 states and the District of Columbia including New Jersey, would avert civil lawsuits that attorneys general could bring against McKinsey. The majority of the money will be paid upfront, with the rest dispensed in four yearly payments starting in 2022. The Wall Street Journal

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) declined to punish Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) for spreading false and bigoted extremist conspiracy theories and endorsing political violence against Democrats. “Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” McCarthy said. Greene, who has endorsed the executions of top Democrats, suggested that school shootings were staged and said that a space laser controlled by Jewish financiers started a wildfire, faces a vote by the full House to remove her from committee assignments. The New York Times

Nicholas D’Agostino announced he will seek the Republican primary nomination to run against 5th District Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer in 2022. D’Agostino,  president of the K-8 Sussex-Wantage Regional Board of Education, considers himself a conservative Republican but believes his opposition to prosecuting drug addiction and other “victimless crimes” has the potential to appeal to crossover voters. New Jersey Herald

Upper Saddle River Councilwoman DeAnne DeFuccio filed a letter of intent with Bergen County Republicans for the Assembly seat Holly Schepisi is giving up to challenge incumbent Gerald Cardinale for the State Senate in the 39th Legislative District. DeFuccio is expected to run on a ticket with Cardinale and Assemblyman Robert Auth, depending on the outcome of the March Bergen GOP convention that will award the organization line. New Jersey Globe

Two separate bipartisan legislations focused on saving taxpayers money were recently approved by State Senate committees. A bill sponsored by State Sens. Steve Oroho (R-24) and Paul Sarlo (D-36) would bolster government efficiency and reduce damaging economic regulations. At the same time, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) offered a bill to shut down dormant boards and authorities they consider “useless” to taxpayers.

New Jersey has reduced the digital divide down to 413 students statewide who still either need a computer or internet connection to participate in online classes amid the coronavirus pandemic. As of Feb. 3, Gov. Phil Murphy said there are 266 students still needing devices, 132 in need of internet access, and 15 who need both, down from the 231,000 facing a digital divide at the end of the school year in 2020.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle introduced legislation designed to streamline the process for schools in their response to COVID-19 infections. The bill would mandate notification to school communities about COVID-19 infections, exclude members of a school community infected with COVID-19 from in-person activities, and require the New Jersey Department of Education to develop a data dashboard on coronavirus cases in schools. A second bill would create a five-year pilot program to expand a social emotional learning program to grades kindergarten through fifth grade across the state.

New Jersey schools and community organizations fed twice the number of children last Summer than the year before. The waiver of some rules due to the coronavirus pandemic and a new state law requiring some public school districts to participate in the summer-meals program helped boost the number of children served on an average day last July to almost 204,000. That represents 51% of the children who receive free or reduced-price school lunches, compared with just 26% who got meals in July 2019. NJ Spotlight News

The Jersey City Public Schools can use district funds to pay for two teachers performing union work full-time, the state Supreme Court ruled. The Arizona-base conservative watchdog group Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Jersey City taxpayers against the school board, the school district and the Jersey City Education Association (the teacher’s union) in 2017,  arguing the district violated the state constitution’s gift clause by allowing union President Ron Greco and Vice President Tina Thorp to stay on the district payroll while solely working on union business. The Jersey Journal

Gov. Phil Murphy welcomed home 500 New Jersey-based National Guard soldiers Feb. 3 who were sent to Washington to help offer security after a violent mob stormed the Capitol building. “As always, you’ve done us proud,” Murphy said to soldiers arriving at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. “We answered the bell and the men and women of our National Guard served our nation’s Capitol and made all nine million of us in your New Jersey family incredibly proud.”

And finally…A New Jersey resident is the world’s first man to receive a successful face and double-hand transplant. The Record

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