North Jersey News Roundup for March 1, 2021

OPINION: A Year Since The Coronavirus Changed The Way We Live. This Thursday, March 4, will mark a year since the first case of the coronavirus was discovered in New Jersey. Looking back, there have been successes and mistakes made along the way—by leaders of both parties on state and federal levels. For the most part, we believe those making the decisions in New Jersey have overwhelmingly made ones in the moment with the best intentions. But after a long year, we are here to declare that the sacrifices we have all made are leading to better days ahead and closer than most would guess.

The COVID-19 vaccine from New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson, the third vaccine approved to fight the coronavirus in the U.S., shipped out Feb. 28, a day after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the shot that works with just one dose instead of two. The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death as one dose was 85% protective against the most severe coronavirus illness. Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin arriving March 2. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer. News12 New Jersey

New Jersey could get an initial shipment of about 70,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine and the same amount in subsequent weeks, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. “Quite simply, an approval of Johnson & Johnson’s application would be a game-changer,” Murphy said at a press briefing Feb. 26. “Simply having a third tool in our toolbox is critical. An additional 70,000 doses in one week means another 70,000 vaccinated New Jerseyans.” The Daily Record

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) wants state officials to hit the reset button on its distribution plan with the emergency authorization approval of a third COVID-19 vaccine. “The 70,000 doses heading to New Jersey and all future (Johnson & Johnson) doses should be reserved for senior citizens and school staff until those groups are all fully vaccinated,” said Sarlo in a press statement Feb. 27. “Give me 200 J&J doses in Wood-Ridge and I’ll have our schools open five days a week the next day. Give me 1,000 and I’ll have all my seniors done in one week.”

State Sen. Joseph Lagana, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-39) renewed their call for educators to be  given priority access to vaccines after the FDA approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “We all want our children to get a well-rounded education, learning from their teachers and in their classrooms,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement. “Reopening our schools is safer as more educators have the opportunity to be vaccinated, and it is our hope that reports of additional doses becoming available brings us closer to this vital step.” Insider NJ

New Jersey’s Department of Health commissioner recently delivered the good news that New Jerseyans can visit loved ones in long-term care facilities in seven counties. The health department notified facilities in seven counties— Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem—can restart indoor, socially distanced visitation by appointment, because they are in a region with moderate COVID activity over the past two week. “Once they meet certain requirements and attest to them, they can schedule indoor visitations,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli at a press briefing on Feb. 24. “This is good news. We are seeing the outbreaks in our long-term care facilities decrease.”

The decision by the New Jersey’s Board of Chiropractic Examiners to reinstate a convicted sex offender’s license is “reprehensible,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Feb. 26. The state Board of Chiropractic Examiners reinstated the license after denying a motion by the state Attorney General’s office to deny the license. “The Attorney General is completely right on this. It is unacceptable and the folks who voted to reinstate this guy should hear this loud and clear. We will be looking very carefully and very soon at the makeup of that board,” stated Murphy.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) will introduce a bill dissolving and reforming the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners after the body dismissed Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s motion to block the reinstatement of a sex offender’s license. Weinberg’s bill would dissolve the current board, remove its current members, and create a new body, with a larger number of public members as well as bar anyone convicted of a felony sexual offense of being licensed to work as a chiropractor. New Jersey Globe

The House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, voted largely along party lines Feb. 27. The House plan includes payments of $1,400 to most individuals, along with the same amount for each dependent, a $400 per week unemployment supplement through Aug. 29, $20 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, $50 billion for testing and tracing efforts, $350 billion in state, local and tribal government aid, $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions to cover reopening costs and aid to students and $15 per hour federal minimum wage, which the Senate parliamentarian will not allow in the reconciliation bill. CNBC

Former President Donald Trump took aim at President Joe Biden’s early moves on immigration and coronavirus pandemic, left open the prospect of another run at the presidency and cast himself as the GOP standard-bearer in the former president’s first major public remarks since leaving office. “We went through a journey like nobody else, there’s never been a journey like it, there’s never been a journey so successful, we began it together four years ago and it is far from being over,” Trump said Feb. 28 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “Let there be no doubt, we will be victorious.” The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez introduced a comprehensive immigration bill that aims to meet President Joe Biden’s goals of addressing the legal status of millions of undocumented immigrants across the country. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 reflects the priorities for immigration reform outlined by Biden on his first day in office, including an expedited pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, an increase in visas, more funding to process asylum applications and new technology at the southern border.

A program offering low- and moderate-income students in New Jersey the opportunity to get a tuition-free community college education is now permanent. Currently, only students from households earning $65,000 or less qualify for the program, which has gone up from $45,000 under Gov. Phil Murphy’s first state budget in 2018. It’s a “last-dollar” program, meaning the grants cover any tuition and fees that remain after a student uses all other grants and scholarships available to them. It’s available to these students for up to five semesters.

An internal audit at NJ Transit uncovered that the agency forgave millions in penalties to Academy Bus Co. owed for missed bus trips in 2019 and concluded that the procedures the agency had in place to monitor the company and other private carriers were “inadequate.” NJ Transit’s internal audit team made 10 recommendations for how the Private Carrier Affairs department should improve its procedures, including upgrading the technology to better monitor bus trips handled by private companies, consider increasing the penalties for unreported missed bus trips and require more management approvals on changes to contracts and penalty abatements. The Record

And finally…A Morristown plumber drove to Texas to help those in need. The Record 

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