North Jersey News Roundup for March 5, 2021

A year after the first documented case of the coronavirus in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy pointed to the “rays of light” state officials see in their attempts to contain the virus. “None of us could even imagine what it was we ultimately would be up against,” said Murphy at a press briefing on March 3. “One year in, we can finally see the light of a new day beginning to break on the horizon. We cannot yet bask in that light, but make no mistake, we will.” Murphy believes the COVID-19 vaccine supplies the state will receive and the infrastructure that has been built will enable the state over the next three months to reach of its goal to vaccinate 70% of New Jerseyans by Memorial Day. “Each shot is another ray of light in that new dawn. Each one comes with a little extra hope for the post-COVID days that await,” said Murphy. 

Wegmans opened up appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine at all of its nine stores in New Jersey starting March 5. A company official said the grocery store has been allocated the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in New Jersey.

Seton Hall University is planning and preparing to return to in-person instruction in the Fall, including welcoming the full contingent of students on campus. School President Joseph Nyre said the school is creating a schedule that anticipates in-person classes and activities with a considerable number of faculty, staff and administrators on every campus. “We are anticipating that our physical infrastructure (academic buildings, residence halls, dining, athletic and recreational facilities, and the University Center) will return to full or nearly full operation,” stated Nyre.

New unemployment claims dropped to their lowest level since the coronavirus pandemic pushed hundreds of thousands of workers out of their jobs. Another 10,384 claims were filed in the week ending Feb. 27, a 3.5% decrease from the previous week and the third week of falling claims. The total of those filing claims now stands at 2,034,337 in the last 52 weeks, the highest number of jobless claims the department has ever seen.

Anti-semitic comments made by Assembly candidate Alexandra Soriano-Taveras are raising questions about whether her candidacy should move forward by state lawmakers. “Boycott those businesses, including the Dunkin’ Donuts and everything else, and we hurt them in their pockets. Who owns those businesses that we continue to support on Cedar Lane?” Soriano-Taveras is heard to say in the video from last year. Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) said he found Soriano-Tavaras’ comments “reprehensible….What she said was a not-so-veiled anti-Semitic trope.” Gov. Phil Murphy, running on the same line in Bergen County with Soriano-Taveras, weighed in on the subject stating, “The last thing we need in the most diverse state in the union is for us to be pitting one community against another, and that includes anti-Semitism or whatever else is implied in this.” 

Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-39) is back in the race for the State Senate seat, reconsidering his decision to exit the special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Gerald Cardinale last month. After announcing he would drop his bid for State Senate race in the interests of party unity in the 39th Legislative District, Auth had a change of heart and will now challenge Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi for the State Senate even if it means losing his Assembly seat. New Jersey Globe

Gov. Phil Murphy appointed three new members to the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners, a week after criticizing the board for reinstating the license of a convicted sex offender and vowed to make changes. The action comes after the five board members voted unanimously to reinstate Bryan K. Bajakian, who practiced in Paramus before he was convicted on luring and firearms charges in 2008.

Residents at long-term care facilities cannot be discriminated against based on their gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or HIV status, under a new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy. The new law prohibits long-term care facilities from denying admission, transferring, discharging, or evicting residents, as well as denying service, medical care, or other reasonable accommodations, due to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, intersex status or HIV status. The Record

Data released by state officials shows 3,046 people died due to suspected drug overdoses last year, up less than 1% a year earlier. Gov. Phil Murphy said “we did not see our worst fears come to pass” of a surge caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “We were extremely concerned that the emotional toll of this crisis would lead to a significant uptick in overdose deaths,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “But we must stay vigilant. Three thousand forty-six lives lost is too many. One life lost to overdose is too many.”

Deadly doses of fentanyl and the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic have led to a surge in drug overdoses in Morris County, according to Acting Morris Prosecutor Robert Carroll and Sheriff James Gannon. In the first two months of 2021, 16 people have died from opioid overdoses with another 22 suffering non-fatal overdoses, putting the county on pace for a 23% rise in overdose deaths. New Jersey Herald

Bipartisan legislation to encourage the creation of regional and countrywide K-12 school districts was introduced as part of a broader effort to improve educational efficiency and quality. The legislation, introduced by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) along with State Sens. Vin Gopal (D-11) and Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), would establish criteria for state-funded regionalization studies to understand the issue better. Additionally, the legislation would increase flexibility on regionalization cost apportionment; bar any regionalization that would have a segregative effect; and provide significant financial incentives for districts that were losing state aid. 

State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-31) was arrested in Jersey City on a driving while intoxicated charge March 4 after crashing into parked cars. Cunningham suffered minor injuries in a three-vehicle crash Thursday morning on Culver Avenue near Route 440. Insider NJ

Via, the Jersey City on-demand transit program, is expanding to provide weekend service. The company will expand the service to cover Saturdays, beginning March 6, with rides costing $2 to-or-from the Central Zone, and $2 plus $0.50 per mile for rides within the Outer Zone. The Jersey Journal

Hoboken police detectives are investigating a bias incident after a member of the public sent a “disturbing” and racially offensive message at a City Council meeting. An unidentified individual logged into the March 3 council meeting held on Zoom and during the meeting sent the N-word repeatedly to panelists privately, away from public view. Hudson Reporter

The Parsippany Planning Board will conduct a virtual hearing to consider a developer’s application to the former GlaxoSmithKline campus to construct three buildings with 250 age-restricted residential units. The applicant, Parsippany Littleton LLC, is currently seeking preliminary approval only for an assisted living facility consisting of 120 units in a single building. They ultimately are proposing a development of approximately 250 age-restricted multifamily units in three buildings. The Daily Record

Garfield is taking the first step toward possibly allowing marijuana sales by calling for a study of exactly where zoning would allow a dispensary. Councilman Joseph Delaney said council members felt it was important to look into the possibility, because of the tax incentives that would benefit the city. The Record

And finally…Former students are helping a retired Montville teacher rebuild after his home burned down. New Jersey Herald

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