North Jersey News Roundup for April 15, 2021

State officials sought to reassure New Jerseyans the pause in administering Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines should not dissuade residents from getting vaccinated. New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli pointed out—on the day the state passed 25,000 coronavirus related deaths since last March—no one in the Garden State has had a serious adverse reaction from the roughly 240,000 doses of J&J vaccine administered in the state similar to the six cases being investigated by federal health agencies. “Your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 is much greater than experiencing this very rare side effect,” said Persichilli at a press briefing April 14. “It is vital that you get your vaccine (in a state) where we have lost 1 in 500 New Jerseyans (to COVID-19).”

The federal government’s recommendation to pause using Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will remain in place after an advisory panel put off a vote on how to move forward following reports of a few cases of life-threatening blood clots. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on April 14 determined it doesn’t have enough information yet about the risk of these unusual side effects to determine whether the vaccine should be continued, discontinued or recommended only for certain groups of the population. The ACIP expects to meet again in another week or two to revisit the issue. The Wall Street Journal

A Monmouth University Poll found 1 in 5 Americans have no plans to be vaccinated, even as the virus continues to spread and new variants are discovered. The poll’s results included 43% of Republicans said they won’t take a shot in the arm, compared with just 5% of Democrats. A slight majority, 51%, said they had received at least one shot and 14% said they would be vaccinated as soon as they were eligible to do so.

Gov. Phil Murphy declined to offer conditions when he would end the state of emergency New Jersey is under due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s not something that we want to be doing. We do it because we have to do it,” said Murphy, who has issued more than 200 executive orders related to the pandemic including extending the health emergency every 30 days. “It’s a topic of constant conversation within our team, with our legislative colleagues, and they’ve been great about that.”

State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) was joined by State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40) in calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to eliminate outdoor gathering restrictions as high school and college graduations approach, calling the regulations “inconsistent.” In particular, Bucco took exception with the current guidelines that certain outdoor gatherings be limited to 200 people, while other events do not need to follow the same rules. “If Governor Murphy thinks the science supports not having gathering limits for weddings or funerals, the same science should apply to all types of outdoor events, including graduations. The coronavirus doesn’t know the difference,” said the Morris County lawmaker.

Gov. Phil Murphy has nominated Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection to officially keep the job. LaTourette, believed to be the first openly LGBTQ person in the nation to lead a state environmental agency, has headed the department since former commissioner Catherine McCabe retired earlier this year. NJ Spotlight News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to dredge 387,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the bottom of a nine-mile stretch of the Passaic River, roughly between the Dundee Dam in Garfield and Kearny. Not all of the pollution will be dredged and removed in the proposed plan as some will be left behind and buried underneath a cap to prevent it from spreading. The EPA said dealing with this section of the river is critical to keeping pollution from spreading downstream, into areas where other cleanup work is already underway.

As national attention focuses on images from body cameras being worn by police officers in the line of duty, Gov. Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal released a report by the Interagency Working Group on Body Worn Cameras (BWC) April 9 of how the state should proceed with their initiative. The report was produced following Murphy’s executive order designed to provide advice and recommendation on the emerging technology as the state begins to deploy the cameras to all law enforcement agencies in the state.

Gov. Phil Murphy will nominate three new commissioners to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as part of a deal that allows Kevin O’Toole to remain as chairman of the bi-state agency. Murphy will name Robert J. Menendez, Dana Martinotti, and Michelle Richardson to serve as commissioners as well as renominating Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe to a six-year term. Murphy will withdraw the nomination of Amy Rosen, who has gone nearly three years without getting confirmed by the Democratic-controlled State Senate. New Jersey Globe

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) said she would “not (be) saying kaddish” after the death of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff. Weinberg, who had her life savings wiped out in Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme in 2008, stated “I continued living my life in a much more productive manner than he has. I haven’t thought about him very much over the last number of years…I didn’t need him to die for a sense of closure.” The Daily Record 

Palisades Park Mayor Christopher Chung landed a job at a Bergen County agency less than three weeks after he abandoned his bid for the Assembly in the 37th Legislative District. Chung, who withdrew after a critical report by the state’s comptroller claiming Palisades Park officials wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, will make $75,000 annually as coordinator of contractual operations for the Bergen County Utilities Authority. The Record

Two more of the Parsippany’s vacant office properties are closer to being transformed into residential complexes after approval from the town’s Planning Board. Still awaiting final Township Council approval, the proposals call for the office building at 2 Campus Drive in the Mack-Cali complex to be razed and replaced with new construction of 172 residential units and 238 residential units on the vacant property at 3 Campus Drive. New Jersey Herald

More than 2,000 Paterson residents submitted applications for the guaranteed income initiative national program funded through a $15 million donation by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. The city will choose 110 Paterson residents through a lottery for the one year pilot program that will guarantee a $400-per-month stipend with no strings attached. The Record

And finally..Plans for blockbuster summer concerts and events are moving forward in New Jersey.

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