North Jersey News Roundup for March 23, 2021

Any plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in the Garden State are being delayed as new cases are no longer declining. “We are back to leading this nation in the spread of this virus,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a press briefing March 22. “There is no magic wand we can wave to stop the spread of COVID.” New Jersey has the nation’s highest rate of new COVID cases currently—nearly 45 a day per 100,000 residents, with Rhode Island second at around 34. Murphy and health officials reiterated those vaccinated still pose a risk in their ability to spread the virus.

U.S. officials said they were told AstraZeneca PLC may have released outdated information in its disclosure of trial results for its COVID-19 vaccine that could have “provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.” The statement from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases came a day after the company released interim data from large-scale U.S. trials that it said found its COVID-19 vaccine to be 79% effective in preventing symptomatic disease. The New York Times

New Jerseyans will be allowed to visit indoors at long-term care facilities across the state, as the numbers of cases and deaths in those facilities have declined significantly. Visitors can see nursing home residents indoors regardless of either’s vaccination status under the new guidelines that follow those issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 10. New Jersey Herald

The pace at which New Jersey is reopening the economy came under scrutiny and criticism by State GOP lawmakers and business leaders in the second in a series of Republican oversight hearings taking a look at the Murphy Administration’s actions during the coronavirus pandemic. Business owners on March 19 criticized Murphy for failing to supply clear metrics used to determine operating restrictions and guide reopenings. Additionally, industry leaders argued their members are willing to do the work to reopen safely but their pleas are were and are being ignored. “We are well past the time to open up businesses 100% in the state of New Jersey,” stated State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40).

Biden Administration officials are crafting a plan for a multipart infrastructure and economic package that could cost as much as $3 trillion and fulfill key elements of President Biden’s campaign agenda. The first proposal would center on roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects and include many of the climate-change initiatives President Joe Biden outlined in the “Build Back Better” plan he released during the 2020 campaign. The package would be followed by measures focusing on education and other priorities, including extending the newly expanded child tax credit scheduled to expire at the end of the year and providing for universal prekindergarten and tuition-free community college. The Wall Street Journal

New Jersey’s June 8 primary election will be conducted primarily in-person after last year’s primary and general elections were mostly mail-in because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Phil Murphy said all of the state’s polling places will be open to allow voters who wish to cast their ballots on the voting machines due to coronavirus numbers “holding steady and we are expecting to be in a much better place by June.” The Daily Record

A group of Lyndhurst candidates tossed off the ballot for the upcoming May municipal election are fighting back against the clerk’s decision. The slate of challengers, called Clean Sweep 07071, filed a complaint in Superior Court in Bergen County against Lyndhurst municipal clerk Angela White for rejecting petitions that made them eligible. The Record

New Jersey lawmakers could get extra help from unemployment agents working directly with them under a recently introduced bill. The proposed law, S3505, would require the Department of Labor to assign at least one unemployment claims handler to each legislative district and partisan office during the coronavirus pandemic, appropriating $1.8 million of the CARES Act funds. It advanced out of the State Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee unanimously March 22.

Harrison school district became the first in Hudson County to reopen after never doing so in the Fall because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. About 40% of students opted to return on the first day they could, which was March 15 for pre-K through fifth grade students and March 22 for the rest. The vaccination rate among Harrison staff is about 80%. The Jersey Journal

New Jersey lawmakers are considering measures to improve educational outcomes for the state’s 1.4 million students following coronavirus-related school closures. One proposal would allow certain students in kindergarten through 12th grade to repeat the grade level which they were enrolled in for the current academic year. The second requires candidates for teaching certifications to receive training on remote teaching to help better prepare the next generation of teachers on how to adapt to virtual instruction in the event of emergencies, like the pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy declined to comment about Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks job performance after another four corrections officers were charged last week in connection with the assaults on inmates at New Jersey’s only women’s prison. “The Attorney General has an active, ongoing investigation,” Murphy said during a press briefing March 22. “We have an independent investigation going on, led by Matt Boxer…that’s where it has been and that’s where we’ll be, in that we need to bring both of those to a head and they will be brought to a head.” NJ Spotlight News

An transgender inmate at the center of the a series of alleged beatings in New Jersey’s only women’s prison is suing to be transferred to a county facility. Rae Rollins alleges in her lawsuit claims that she has continued to experience “derogatory, homophobic, and transphobic verbal abuse” behind bars, according to the complaint, and one officer called her a “faggot” before spraying her with a “chemical irritant.” Additionally, the complaint asks for an unspecified amount of money to compensate for Rollins’ injuries.

Food and beverage establishments can resume outdoor dining in Bayonne starting April 1. If an establishment received approval in 2020 for temporary outdoor dining, a new application is not required if the proposed use remains the same although a new application is required if a business proposal. Temporary outdoor dining permits allow operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at A.B.C.-licensed facilities and normal business hours for non-A.B.C.-licensed facilities. Hudson Reporter

Gov. Phil Murphy sharply criticized the Asbury Park Press and Gannett for a photo caption that included misogynistic and ethnic slurs as “completely, utterly unacceptable, really offensive—offensive at so many different levels.” Murphy added that “someone has to pay a price for that.  That’s completely, incredibly offensive. Even the apology missed the point.” New Jersey Globe

And finally…Krispy Kreme is giving away one free, daily original glazed doughnut to anyone who shows a valid COVID-19 vaccination card at any of its U.S. shops.

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