North Jersey News Roundup for Feb. 16, 2021

In efforts to increase the areas most affected by the coronavirus, state officials recently announced the launch of a community-based vaccination partnerships to provide equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The initial phase of the vaccination partnership will include sites in Somerset, Trenton, Elizabeth, Vineland, and Paterson, which officials said were chosen due to their communities being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and are home to some of the most diverse and socio-economically challenged communities in the state.

Newly reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. fell to their lowest level in nearly four months over Presidents Day weekend. There were more than 52,000 new cases reported for Feb. 15, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, down from 64,938 a day earlier and 89,727 a week earlier. Feb. 15’s figure was the lowest since Oct. 18, 2020, and represents a drastic reduction from all-time highs of about 300,000 a day recorded in early January. The Wall Street Journal

The World Health Organization approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Feb. 15, clearing the way for the first shipments of free vaccines to inoculate the world’s poorest nations. The Covax facility, which is financed mostly by Western governments and charitable groups such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to supply some 2.27 billion vaccine doses this year to 145 countries, the majority free of charge. The New York Times

United Airlines, in partnership with XPresSpa Group, Inc., opened a COVID-19 testing center in the Terminal C baggage claim area at Newark Airport. Four separate testing rooms passengers can utilize before passing through security will be able to perform more than 300 tests per day, including the rapid molecular COVID-19 test and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The testing site is open to all travelers, not just those flying with United.

Wayne health officials opened up the township’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics to residents of Pompton Lakes. The township decided to expand availability of its Moderna doses because it shares a health department with its neighbor. The clinics were launched on Jan. 8 in the former Macy’s department store at Preakness shopping center. The Record

Three North Jersey federal legislators introduced legislation to restore regulations regarding infection control and emergency preparedness in long-term care facilities that were rolled back under the Trump Administration. The bicameral legislation is sponsored by Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Mikie Sherrill in the House along with Sen. Bob Menendez in the Senate. Called the The Promoting Restoration of Emergency Preparedness and Advancing Response to Epidemics in Long-Term Care Act (PREPARE LTC Act), the proposed law would require facilities to establish and maintain an infection prevention program and an emergency plan to protect residents during emergency situations.

Hoboken church pastor Phillip Rizzo launched a bid to be the Republican nominee for governor. Rizzo, a Morris County native, has filed paperwork with the state’s Division of Elections to establish the campaign and will be facing at least two other Republicans in the June primaries—former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and businessman Hirsh Singh.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled his willingness to get involved in primary elections to improve the party’s chances of regaining control of the U.S. Senate in the next round of elections in 2022. Facing the prospect of campaigns from the pro-Trump wing of the Republican party, McConnell said the key to GOP chances of retaking the Senate is “getting candidates who can actually win in November. That may or may not involve trying to affect the outcome of the primaries.” The Wall Street Journal

Three-quarters of Republicans want former President Donald Trump to play a prominent role in the Republican Party, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Feb. 15. The poll showed 89% of Republicans opposed the conviction of Trump in his U.S. Senate impeachment trial, 87% say he should be allowed to hold public office in the future and 89% believe he was not responsible for inciting violence that led to the deadly January 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol. Overall, 55% oppose Trump returning to public office, while 46% support his eligibility and a majority, 54%, view his as being responsible for the violence at the Capitol last month. New Jersey Globe

Members of the New Jersey delegation agreed with the majority of the U.S. Senate that voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his action leading up to and on Jan. 6 when pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Sen. Bob Menendez, who cast one of the votes with the majority, stated the Senate trial made clear President Trump spurred a violent attack on Congress and then betrayed his duty as Commander-in-Chief by failing to deploy the National Guard to aid the Capitol Police and save American lives. The Senate voted 57 guilty to 43 not guilty on Feb. 13, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict former President Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress will establish an independent, Sept. 11-style commission to look into the deadly insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol. Pelosi said the commission will “investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex … and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power.” News12 New Jersey

Rep. Josh Gottheimer unveiled the Alyssa’s Legacy in School Safety Alert (ALYSSA) Act, a bipartisan nationwide safety bill for schools named for former Woodcliff Lake’s resident Alyssa Alhadeff on the third anniversary of her death in the Parkland School shooting. The bill would require silent panic alarms in all schools alerting law enforcement during active shooter situations as well as increase investment in School Resource Officers.

A man’s claim that Paterson police officers struck him 15 times while arresting him Dec. 14, 2020 is under investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. A brief statement issued Feb. 15 by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said his Public Integrity Office was looking into possible misconduct involving the allegations the man was assaulted “without provocation.” But the state has not provided further details. The Record

Vernon Township has completed the cleanup of a pile of trash off Black Creek Drive about 600 feet from the proposed future site of a bicycle pump track and trail. The township will ask New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to waive a $4,500 fine issued in late October and is hopeful the expedited cleanup will result in the state agreeing to do so. New Jersey Herald

And finally…Rutgers research into COVID-19 genome could lead to new vaccines.

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