Sen. Bob Menendez is calling for swift passage of the proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan from President Joe Biden being debated in Congress this week.
“We need bold action and fast. People want to get back to their lives. To me, that’s what this bill is about,” said Menendez during a recent virtual press briefing that included North Jersey politicians and small business owners affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Menendez promoted the bill as delivering billions for New Jersey to fight the pandemic, help struggling families and communities, and stimulate the economy.
The federal bill provides federal funding to ramp up vaccinations, increases stimulus checks to $2,000, extends unemployment benefits and housing protections, help schools return to in-person instruction, support struggling restaurants and small businesses, and provide states, counties and municipalities with direct, flexible assistance to maintain services as well as keep essential workers on the job.
Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark noted the borough is currently running budget shortfalls in a town where one-third of its residents have applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
The plan offers a total of $350 billion in aid to every state, county and municipal government to help cover increased costs and lost revenues due to the pandemic, while keeping essential public workers on the job and maintaining critical services for residents
Woodland Park Aid
Kazmark highlighted his town would benefit from the direct, flexible federal assistance contained in the bill that can be used to combat the pandemic and bolster critical services, such as Woodland Park’s volunteer fire department.
“Our volunteer fire and EMS departments…maintain their own buildings with 90% of their funding coming from donations, which has all but dried up due to the pandemic,” said Kazmark. “So, any assistance that can be brought to our volunteer first responders, who have really gotten us through the height of this emergency.”
“We can’t let them down. We have to continue to support them and make sure they are able to answer the call and thrive as volunteer emergency responders.”
Small Business Help
Several constituents discussed at the virtual press briefing how they have been financially impacted by the pandemic, including those who are relying on federal unemployment benefits, housing and food assistance, and support for small businesses.
“I had a great job that I gave up to start a new business with my family,” said Sal Berardi, owner of SalTown Deli in Woodland Park. “Five months in and we got hit with the pandemic and we’ve been fighting ever since. We try our best every single day just to keep the doors open.”
The bill includes $25 billion targeted assistance for hard-hit restaurants, bars and eateries based on the RESTAURANT Act, $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and second-draw PPP loans and $15 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance grants.
“Before the pandemic, our business wasn’t just booming, it was thriving,” said Sylvia Lasalandra-Frodella, owner of H2Ocean, a seafood restaurant in Cedar Knolls. “We need a lifeline. If the pandemic were to end tomorrow, it’s going to be a long time before we and other struggling restaurants recover. We’re going to need more help to stay open.”
Return to Normal
Menendez believes President Biden’s proposal is a key to returning to the way our lives were before the pandemic hit. The bill includes $14 billion for COVID-19 vaccines and $130 billion to to schools to upgrade ventilation systems, reduce class size, implement social distancing, purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), hire more staff and avoid teacher layoffs so in-school instruction can resume.
“The American Rescue Plan is about rescuing the American way of life, so our children and grandchildren can learn in classrooms instead of on computer screens, so we can gather with loved ones instead of worrying about getting them sick, so that we can join hands in our houses of worship to uplift each other in prayer, and so that we can reconnect with each other and restore a sense of community and common purpose in towns and cities large and small across the nation,” stated the U.S. Senator.
As of Feb. 23, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 687,386 with 2,516 total new PCR cases reported over the two day. There were 825 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 84,881. The total number of individual cases for the state is 772,267. Gov. Murphy previously 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 104 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,689. The state listed probable deaths at 2,289, bringing the overall total to 22,978. State officials noted 34 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 23, Bergen had a total of 365 new confirmed cases and 98 probable cases, Essex 223 new cases and 53 probable cases, Hudson 251 new cases and 75 probable cases, Morris 139 new cases and and 47 probable cases, Passaic 141 new cases and 52 probable cases, Sussex 26 new cases and 16 probable cases, and Warren 33 cases and three probable cases.
State officials have identified a total of 52 cases of the B117 UK coronavirus variant in 12 counties in New Jersey, including eight in Essex County, four in Morris County, three in Hudson, and two each in Passaic and Warren counties.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,387, followed by Bergen at 2,320, Hudson with 1,804, Passaic at 1,496, Morris at 888, Sussex at 208 and Warren County at 195.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 17, Bergen has 280, Essex has 266, Morris has 225, Hudson has 177, Passaic has 169, Sussex has 62 and Warren has 19.
As for the rate of transmission, it remained unchanged at 0.86 from the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 18, was 6.4%; by region, the rate was 7.0% in the North, 7.5% in the Central region and 5.5% in the South.
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 2,047 patients were hospitalized; 1,888 cases were confirmed and 135 are under investigation. By region, there were 952 in the North, 657 in the Central and 438 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 451 are in intensive care units and 281 on ventilators. A total of 178 patients were discharged, while 202 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 67,216, followed by Middlesex at 66,351, Essex at 66,052, Hudson at 62,178, Passaic at 51,305, Ocean at 50,756, Monmouth at 50,191, Union at 48,140, Camden at 38,874, Morris at 31,305, Burlington at 30,418, Mercer at 25,713, Gloucester at 20,737, Atlantic at 19,344, Somerset at 18,249, Cumberland at 11,919, Sussex at 7,757, Warren at 6,154, Hunterdon at 6,115, Salem at 4,154, and Cape May at 3,609.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 8,262, followed by Union at 7,538, Ocean at 6,380, Essex at 6,048, Morris at 5,386, Hudson at 5,466, Monmouth at 5,168, Atlantic at 4,954, Middlesex at 4,833, Passaic at 4,644, Camden at 4,629, Burlington at 4,353, Somerset at 4,058, Cape May at 3,448, Gloucester at 3,051, Cumberland at 2,128, Mercer at 1,585, Sussex at 1,134, Warren at 697, Hunterdon at 614, and Salem 452.
Another 849 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 142 outbreaks involving 671 cases, with two new outbreaks accounting for 15 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 17.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 32 confirmed outbreaks with 129 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Hudson and Morris Counties have two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases each, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 362 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 13,638 of the cases, broken down between 6,758 residents and 6,880 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,255 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,202 residents and 20,906 staff, for a total of 53,108 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,889 on Feb. 23. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,813 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 1,713,580 as of Feb. 23. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,170,200 residents have received their first dose with 543,358 their second; 54% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 46% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 59% of those vaccinated are women and 41% men. As for ethnicity, 55% are White, 16% unknown, 15% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 41% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 24% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 191,529 doses, Essex 138,752 doses, Morris 124,924 doses, Passaic 76,920 doses, Hudson 76,566 doses, Sussex 26,373 doses, and Warren 15,577 doses.