North Jersey News Roundup for March 4, 2021

New Jersey Republicans in the State Senate and Assembly will join together to hold an investigation into Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic the day after the one-year anniversary of the first case in the state. Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-21) and Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) announced in a joint statement the effort was being expanded to review what they called a “flawed” response by the Murphy Administration to the historic public health crisis. The independent hearings will examine Murphy’s coronavirus policies for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, issues with New Jersey’s unemployment system and the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission and the impact on small businesses.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he was “stunned” by the recent responses of Texas and Mississippi to lift all coronavirus restrictions. “I don’t know what these states are looking at,” said Murphy at a press briefing March 3. “No capacity restrictions and no masking, particularly indoors. I think I could get it if you were socially distanced, if the states in warmer climates lifted potentially outdoor masking, but to lift it completely indoors? It just takes my breath away.”

New Jersey added 11 more medical conditions that make people eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the state earlier this week. The additions come from the CDC’s “might increase” category including asthma; cerebrovascular disease; cystic fibrosis; hypertension or high blood pressure; immunocompromised state; neurologic conditions, such as dementia; liver disease; overweight (those with BMIs greater than 25 but less than 30); pulmonary fibrosis; the blood disorder thalassemia; and type 1 diabetes.

The number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey nursing homes plunged by 90% and deaths 50% since the COVID-19 vaccination campaign began two months ago. In New Jersey, cases have plummeted from 13.7 positive cases per 1,000 residents in late December 2020, when the vaccination campaign began, to 1.5 per 1,000 by late February. The Daily Record

New Jersey extended its moratorium on companies shutting off residents’ utilities through June 30, as the state continues to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. The executive order places a hold on the state’s major utility companies from shutting off their gas, water, or electric, as well as the internet in households with children using the internet for educational purposes for those who can not pay their bills. The moratorium, set to expire March 15, applies only to residents, not commercial businesses. PoliticoNJ

Gov. Phil Murphy signed two executive orders to ease coronavirus restrictions for camps and wedding ceremonies. New Jersey residents will be permitted to attend sleepaway camps this summer and the state increased capacity limits for indoor wedding receptions to 35% of a venue’s indoor capacity up to 150 persons. Murphy said he made the announcement because of the extensive planning involved with preparing for the two events. News12 New Jersey

As the U.S. Senate considers President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a new Monmouth University Poll found overwhelmingly support for the plan. More than 6 in 10 Americans support the coronavirus stimulus bill being considered by Congress that features stimulus checks for lower and middle income Americans, extending unemployment benefits, raising the minimum wage, and state and local aid, according to the national poll. While many Americans would be willing to entertain cuts in the overall $1.9 trillion spending plan in order to gain Republican votes in the Senate, most say the $1,400 per person direct payments are off-limits. Respondents expressed widespread support for extending additional jobless benefits and majority support for raising the minimum wage.

The U.S. Capitol Police force is preparing for another assault on the Capitol building on March 4 after obtaining intelligence of a potential plot by a militia group. As a result, House of Representatives leaders moved a vote on policing legislation from up a day to March 3. The “possible” plot, as described by the Capitol Police, appeared to be inspired by the pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as QAnon. The New York Times

North Jersey Representatives voted in the affirmative on the American Rescue Plan Feb. 27, arguing it would support New Jersey residents alongside all Americans. “Relief checks to families who are hurting, investments in more vaccines and expanded distribution, unemployment benefits to those in need, and much more,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer upon passage of the bill. Rep. Tom Malinowski added, “The legislation passed by the House provides the resources necessary to get Americans through this crisis and crush the pandemic so our economy can recover. Importantly for New Jersey, this bill includes vital funding for our state and local governments to help keep critical workers on the job.”

House Democrats voted an expansion of federal voting rights on March 3 over unified Republican opposition, aimed at countering GOP attempts to clamp down on ballot access. The bill, considered the most significant enhancement of federal voting protections since the 1960s if it became law, aims to impose new national requirements weakening restrictive state voter ID laws, mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, make it harder to purge voter rolls and restore voting rights to former felons. The changes are targeted to increase voter participation, especially by racial minorities. The Wall Street Journal

North Jersey federal legislators sent a letter to Gannett CEO Michael Reed urging the company to cease efforts to interfere with the right of local employees to unionize. U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, along with Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr., Josh Gottheimer, Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski are supporting the uniziong efforts after a supermajority of reporters, photographers and producers at Gannett’s North Jersey properties, including The Record,, The Daily Record and New Jersey Herald, elected to form the Record Guild, affiliated with the NewsGuild of New York, TNG-CWA Local 31003. Hudson Reporter

Two Paterson city councilmen were indicted on voting fraud charges stemming from the alleged mishandling of mail-in ballots in the city’s May 2020 election. First Ward councilman Michael Jackson and Third Ward councilman Alex Mendez face charges of election fraud, fraud in casting mail-in vote, tampering with public records and unauthorized possession of ballots, according to charges brought by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. The allegations largely relate to rules around voters’ ability to designate a “bearer” of their ballot—meaning a person who could deliver a ballot for the voter—and the handling of mail-in ballots. New Jersey Globe

Viral outbreaks, deaths and updates on individual New Jersey nursing homes will be the focus of a new Department of Health webpage launched March 3, which state officials say will make it easier to check the status of those facilities. The webpage at will have a map showing each nursing facility in the state and links to summaries of their inspections, making it easier to find health and safety metrics, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

Four Morris County police departments are opposed to the state laws prohibiting officials from notifying parents of minors using or in possession of marijuana or alcohol. Florham Park, Mount Olive, Morristown and Pequannock police departments said the new rules for minors will “infringe upon the rights of parents.” Under one of the new laws that regulates, decriminalizes and allows the possession and use of marijuana by anyone over 21 years old in the Garden State, underage drinking and marijuana use and possession are treated now as an “offense subject to written warnings” instead of fines or other charges. The Daily Record

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in New Jersey has gone up 7 cents in the past week, nearly 30 cents in a month, and is almost 40 cents more than a year ago, just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic caused a nosedive in oil demand that sent prices to uncommonly low levels last Spring and Summer. AAA Mid-Atlantic’s midweek update showed the current average price of a gallon of regular gas is $2.85 in New Jersey, up from $2.56 last month and $2.47 during the first week of March 2020. National experts expect the national price to hit its peak for the year within weeks.

And finally…Hoboken’s LepreCon bar crawl canceled amid coronavirus restrictions. The Jersey Journal

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