North Jersey News Roundup for March 30, 2021

New Jersey continues to expand the eligibility of those receiving the COVID-19 vaccine while launching a program with the help of the Federal government to increase vaccinations rates in Newark. Starting April 5, eligibility will increase to among others individuals ages 55-64, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, higher education educators and staff, and communications and utility infrastructure workers as the state attempts to reach its vaccination goal by the end of May.

President Joe Biden and top health officials warned new COVID-19 cases are once again beginning to climb as they urged Americans to double down on precautions to prevent a fourth surge. The number of new cases jumped by 11% over the past week to a seven-day average of about 60,000 cases as “reckless behavior” had sent cases rising “and the virus is spreading in too many places still,” according to President Biden. “This is not a time to lessen our efforts. If we let our guard down now, we could see the virus getting worse, not better.” Federal officials want states to pause reopening efforts and reinstate mask mandates, with the President calling mask wearing a “patriotic duty.” PoliticoNJ

Gov. Phil Murphy loosened restrictions on outdoor gatherings and capacity limits for New Jersey’s concert and entertainment venues that were put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Outdoor gathering limits will increase from 25 people to 200 people effective 6 a.m. April 2. At the same time, venues that can seat 2,500 people will be permitted to increase indoor seating capacity to 20%, up from 10%, and outdoor capacity to 30%, up from 15%. The Daily Record

Additionally, New Jersey banquet halls will be able to cater to more people amid the coronavirus beginning on the same day. Halls will be able to host indoor celebrations and other private events at 35% of the room’s capacity or a maximum of 150 people. Previously, banquet halls and similar venues were only allowed to operate under those limits for weddings.

A joint WHO-China study on the origins of coronavirus says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely.” The researchers listed four scenarios in order of likelihood for the emergence of the virus named SARS-CoV-2. Topping the list was transmission through a second animal, which they said was likely to very likely. They evaluated direct spread from bats to humans as likely, and said that spread through “cold-chain” food products was possible but not likely. News12 New Jersey

A bill to protect victims of domestic violence was passed by the Assembly Women and Children Committee. The two pieces of legislation would require domestic violence orders to be issued in additional languages besides English and a supervised reintegration program for those jailed for violence against their abusers.

President Joe Biden will nominate Zahid Quraishi for the U.S. District Court for New Jersey, the first Muslim American to serve as a federal district judge. Quraishi, a Rutgers Law School graduate who currently serves as a U.S. magistrate judge, is one of Biden’s first 10 nominations to the federal courts. Additionally, Biden will fill a second vacancy in New Jersey with the nomination of Julien Neals, Bergen County counsel and acting county administrator. New Jersey Globe

The deadline to enroll for people who buy their own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act has been extended through the end of the year in New Jersey. The special enrollment period for coverage through the state-run marketplace,, will run through Dec. 31 to let residents take advantage of changes made by the American Rescue Plan, which provides additional subsidies to reduce health insurance premiums. Premiums are expected to be reduced by an average of $50 a month nationwide. The Record

The Biden Administration approved a huge wind farm off the New Jersey coast as part of an effort to generate electricity for more than 10 million homes nationwide by 2030. The administration intends to prepare a formal environmental analysis for the Ocean Wind project in South Jersey—the third commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S.—in the next month.

Sen. Bob Menendez is joining with other federal lawmakers to ease access to insurance products for marijuana-related businesses after New Jersey moved to decriminalize marijuana. Menendez, joined by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), recently offered the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act, bipartisan legislation that the New Jersey Senator said would “take the shackles off of state-authorized cannabis businesses, allowing this burgeoning industry to thrive.” The bill aims to remove federal penalties and prohibitions that hinder insurers from legally selling products like workers compensation, property, casualty, and title insurance to businesses operating under state laws that now allow recreational or medical marijuana.

New Jersey stands to reap more than $2 billion in grants from the American Rescue Act to help transit systems across the state ranging from NJ Transit to town buses that shuttle senior citizens and disabled persons. NJ Transit is expected to receive the monies to help the agency recover from coronavirus ridership losses and help it cover projected funding gaps in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

School closures and limitations caused by the coronavirus pandemic continue to result in a greater number of New Jersey students falling behind in math and English, according to a JerseyCAN report. By the end of the current academic year, an additional 143,000 students in Grades 3 through 8 are expected to fall behind in English language arts, and an additional 129,000 are expected to fall behind in math, compared to Spring 2019 when state assessments were last given.

Families of those who died from COVID-related causes will soon be able to apply to get reimbursed for funeral expenses as part of the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan passed earlier this month. The federal assistance will be limited to a maximum financial amount of $9,000 per funeral, with a maximum of $35,500 per application for multiple funerals of other family members after Jan. 20, 2020.

And finally…The New Jersey State Police celebrated its 100th anniversary. News12 New Jersey

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