Gov. Phil Murphy: Time for Schools to Meaningfully Move Forward to In-Person Instruction

A day short of the one year anniversary of schools closing their doors and transitioning to all-remote learning because of the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy renewed his call for educators to work to return students to the classroom as quickly as possible.

“Now is the time for all of our schools to meaningfully move forward with a return to in-person instruction—whether it be full-time or through a hybrid schedule,” said Murphy at a press briefing March 17. “It is time for more of our students to be active presences in our schools and not on black boxes on a Zoom screen.”

Of 811 public-school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, and schools for students in New Jersey, 142 are currently open for all-person instruction, serving 107,498 students; 534 are utilizing  hybrid instruction for 843,494 students; 37 are using a mix of options across buildings for 85,541 students and 98 schools accounting for 317,044 students are all-remote.

Students Suffer

But Murphy conceded the models that school districts adopt have undoubtedly stunted the growth of all of those involved. 

“We know that there are students that have fallen behind due to the burden and stress of remote learning and it is time to stem this tide before more students fall away,” he said. “A full year out of their classrooms is not how students move forward or how our world-class extraordinary educators move forward professionally.”

State officials and educators allowed for each district to choose their schooling modality as a way to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the state. In its weekly update, the New Jersey Department of Health reported for the year in-school transmissions have tracked 160 outbreaks involving 765 cases have been reported, with 28 new outbreaks accounting for 125 cases in the weekly update on March 17. 

In-School Transmission Low

“Throughout this school year, we’ve had in place strong health, safety, and reporting protocols to mitigate in-school transmission,” said Murphy, who noted less that 1% of all cases were associated with an outbreak at schools.

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 42 confirmed outbreaks with 172 cases, Passaic County has 11 confirmed outbreaks with 40 cases, Sussex has eight confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has four confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.

To get back to in-person instruction, Murphy trumpeted the state’s actions to prioritize teachers to receive their vaccinations this month as well as aid available from Washington. 

All Doors Opened in September

“The American Rescue Plan…is providing nearly $2.8 billion for our schools—with much of this funding meant to help our schools reopen and to combat the learning loss we know has occurred,” said Murphy, who recently hosted First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on a trip to the Garden State promoting the funds to be used to return to in-person instruction. “This help is right on time.” 

And the governor again reiterated that on the first day of next school year, doors should be wide open to welcome back teachers and students.

“Come September, it is our complete expectation that every school will be open and every student and educator will be safely in their classrooms for full-time in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 academic year,” he said. 

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 3,143,096 as of March 17. Of those who have received the vaccine, 2,091,608 residents have received their first dose with 1,051,018 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 51% have been administered the Moderna vaccine, 48% the Pfizer vaccine and 2% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Demographically, 57% of those vaccinated are women and 43% men. As for ethnicity, 59% are White, 12% unknown, 12% other, 7% Asian, 6% Hispanic and 5% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 42% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 23% are between the ages of 40-49, and 7% are between the ages of 18-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 361,628 doses, Essex 245,426 doses, Morris 229,563 doses, Hudson 155,923 doses, Passaic 140,690 doses, Sussex 49,904 doses, and Warren 33,048 doses. 

Daily Data

As of March 17, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 751,082 with 3,590 total new PCR cases reported. There were 1,107 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 97,794. The total number of individual cases for the state is 888,876. 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 38 new deaths, bringing that total to 21,530. The state listed probable deaths at 2,515, bringing the overall total to 24,045. State officials noted 21 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on March 17, Bergen had a total of 373 new confirmed cases and 131 probable cases, Essex 375 new cases and 67 probable cases, Hudson 278 new cases and 96 probable cases, Morris 193 new cases and 72 probable cases, Passaic 185 new cases and 61 probable cases, Sussex 58 new cases and 19 probable cases, and Warren 67 cases and two new probable cases.

State officials have identified a total of 209 coronavirus variant cases in New Jersey, including 20 in Hudson, 14 in Morris County, 12 in Essex County, eight in Passaic, five in Bergen and three each in Warren and Sussex. 

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,457, followed by Bergen at 2,393, Hudson at 1,868, Passaic at 1,564, Morris at 920, Sussex at 213 and Warren County at 199.

In regards to probable deaths reported March 17, Bergen has 288, Essex has 282, Morris has 238, Hudson has 197, Passaic has 189, Sussex has 65 and Warren has 25.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission, it declined to 1.05 from 1.03 for the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of March 13, was 11.9%; by region, the rate was 12.5% in the North, 12.5% in the Central region and 8.8% in the South. 

Officials reported 1,895 patients were hospitalized; 1,782 cases were confirmed and 113 are under investigation. By region, there were 953 in the North, 585 in the Central and 357 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 407 are in intensive care units and 231 on ventilators. A total of 246 patients were discharged, while 265 were admitted.

Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospilizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 74,618, followed by Middlesex at 72,275, Essex at 72,097, Hudson at 67,911, Monmouth at 56,571, Ocean at 55,958, Passaic at 55,235, Union at 51,919, Camden at 41,230, Morris at 35,291, Burlington at 32,598, Mercer at 27,525, Gloucester at 21,142, Atlantic at 20,986, Somerset at 20,187, Cumberland at 12,689, Sussex at 8,709, Warren at 6,960, Hunterdon at 6,907, Salem at 4,441, and Cape May at 3,912.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 9,955, followed by Union at 8,599, Ocean at 7,725, Essex at 7,001, Hudson at 6,526, Monmouth at 6,212, Morris at 6,173, Middlesex at 5,596, Atlantic at 5,497, Passaic at 5,390, Camden at 5,088, Burlington at 4,910, Somerset at 4,538, Cape May at 3,818, Gloucester at 3,291, Cumberland at 2,172, Mercer at 1,790, Sussex at 1,428, Warren at 766, Hunterdon at 673 and Salem 470.

Another 1,021 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 244 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 9,858 of the cases, broken down between 4,769 residents and 5,089 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,287 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,425 residents and 21,275 staff, for a total of 53,700 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,959 on March 17. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,839 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.


  1. Goldman Phil: you’re playing around with the “numbers”; one reason school kids haven’t gotten Covid-19 in the schools is because most kids aren’t in school; take a look at the NYTs today; it shows how one sick kid can infect a whole classroom if the air is not changed 4 to 6 times an hour in the class room; you did 0 for making old schools safer; you are as bad as any southern red state governor; maybe worse. Go away Goldman Phil.

  2. A bucket of wipes and hand sanitizer does not make a school safe. Put the $$$ into ventilation and get all teachers and students vaccinated. That is a safe environment. September full time Gov? Really?

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