North Jersey News Roundup for Feb. 19, 2021

The weather is the latest obstacle New Jersey officials are facing when it comes to administering the COVID-19 vaccine to state residents. Gov. Phil Murphy announced at a briefing on Feb. 18 that winter weather issues that have disrupted operations throughout the U.S. are expected to delay the delivery of vaccines to the Garden State. “Because of the nationwide weather situation, we know there are going to be supply chain issues. We’re working with a conservative expectation that our anticipated vaccine deliveries will not arrive as scheduled,” stated Murphy.

A lack of COVID-19 vaccine has forced Monmouth County to cancel vaccinations scheduled for Feb. 19 and 20 at its two county-run locations. The move comes after the county ran out doses on Feb. 16 and had to cancel appointments for shots the following two days.

A single shot of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer is 85% effective in preventing symptomatic disease 15 to 28 days after being administered, an Israeli study found. Additionally, a 75% reduction in all coronavirus infections, symptomatic or asymptomatic was found after the first shot. The Wall Street Journal

Clifton’s public school students will return to hybrid learning starting March 8. School officials cited a 30% decrease in infection rates among school-age children in recent weeks as well as the increasing number of vaccines being distributed and a battery of protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing, that will make returning to in-person classes possible. The Record

New unemployment filings reached the lowest they’ve been since the coronavirus pandemic began more than 11 months ago. Another 11,563 new claims were filed last week, a drop of 29% from the week before, and lower than the four-week average of 16,100, the department said. The total of unemployment claims since the pandemic shuttered businesses and led to economic downturn loss across the state exceeds 2 million. Insider NJ

New Jersey lawmakers will take another swing at a marijuana legalization effort on Feb. 19, further pushing a deadline for Gov. Phil Murphy to act on two marijuana bills while they attempt to whip votes. The Senate Judiciary Committee has rescheduled for a second time a hearing on a bill to establish fines and warnings for those under 21 caught with marijuana with a vote scheduled for 3 p.m. “I haven’t given up on it,” state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, (D-3) said. “We’re working on it.” New Jersey Globe

The New Jersey Appellate Court ruled the state can resume its review of nearly 150 medical marijuana license applications delayed for more than a year. The case, which consolidated eight applicants rejected in an initial review, halted the expansion of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program in late 2019 when the court granted a stay in the process. With the stay lifted, the New Jersey Department of Health can reopen its review of 146 applications the state put on hold and resume the process of issuing as many as 24 new licenses.

Assembly Republicans will now take part in planned independent hearings by GOP State Senators on Gov. Phil Murphy administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual hearings set for March 5 will focus on the number of people who died at New Jersey’s nursing homes, veterans homes, and long-term care facilities. News12 New Jersey

New Jersey lawmakers on the state and federal levels have advanced measures aimed at better protecting victims of domestic violence from their former abusers. Lawmakers in Trenton passed bills to make the penalties steeper for strangulation assault when committed in the context of a domestic violence incident and would ensure victims are notified when an individual charged with domestic violence is set to have a weapon returned to them. In Washington, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker demanded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security enforces the Lautenberg Amendment barring anyone with a domestic violence conviction from possessing firearms.

New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office is asking a judge to force Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. to hand over internal documents in an ongoing legal fight over how the gun manufacturer advertises to residents. The state is asking the courts to enforce its lawful subpoena, arguing the gun manufacturer by not turning over the documents results in “claims that it is above the law—that it can deceive consumers and potential consumers of its products without consequence.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski and Sen. Bob Menendez welcomed the Biden Administration rollback of a Trump-era policy delaying key transit infrastructure projects in New Jersey such as the Gateway Project. Under the Trump Administration guidance since June 2018, federal loans taken out by local project partners are no longer counted as part of the local share for Capital Investment Grant (CIG) projects. “I commend Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg and FTA leadership for heeding my call, and look forward to continuing to work closely with the Biden Administration to get the Hudson River tunnel done,” said Malinowski, while Menendez added “The Biden Administration was right to undo Trump’s ill-conceived policy and restore sanity and common sense to the FTA.”

NJ Transit issued a request for proposals seeking solutions on how to better transport crowds of people between the Secaucus train station and the Meadowlands. NJ Transit said interested parties should consider using inactive portions of the Boonton Line west of Secaucus and come up with three alternative plans so future extensions can be considered. The Record

Rockaway Township Councilman Tucker Kelley has filed another lawsuit against the township and mayor that accuses them of violating his civil rights. Kelley lawsuits, the fifth open lawsuit against township officials, claims Mayor Michael Puzio and the Township Council used unfair policies while conducting an investigation in 2020 into acts of bullying and harassment levied against him by the township’s business administrator. The Daily Record

Jersey City Free Public Library eliminated overdue fines for the library, making it the largest fine-and fee-free institution in New Jersey. Patrons will not face monetary penalties for returning books late, but will still be required to return overdue materials in order to check out additional materials and be responsible for replacement costs if an item is lost, damaged, or not returned within 30 days after the due date. Hudson Reporter

And finally…NASA successfully landed its new robotic rover on Mars Feb. 18 in a mission to directly study if there was ever life on the planet. The New York Times

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