Gov. Phil Murphy expressed his frustration with the late decision by Jersey City educators to forgeo returning children to the classroom this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was disappointed in the Jersey City development, hard to say otherwise,” said Murphy at a press briefing April 21. “I know Mayor (Steve) Fulop was attempting to push that into the right direction…I am hoping a combination of good, smart public health habits, vaccinations, warmer weather, would allow a decision like that to be reconsidered.”
Murphy emphasized that schools should be prepared to open their doors for full in-person instruction come September.
Back in September
“I know for sure that we are back in business in September, Monday through Friday for educators and kids for as close to a normal school year as possible,” stated the governor.
Hours after his comments, the Jersey City Public Schools District reversed its decision and will have in-person instruction beginning April 29 for grades pre-K through third grade and other grades going back as early as May 10.
“We sat together with the union leadership, myself and the superintendent, and we sat and we really started to think about the logistical hurdles and how we can overcome them, and we were able to come to a resolution that I think is in the best interest of students and children from across Jersey City,” said Jersey City Board of Education President Mussab Ali.
Teh back and forth began after Superintendent Franklin Walker sent a robocall out to parents April 18 to inform them the district would not return to in-class instruction April 26 due to a lack of teachers willing to return to their classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to keep the district’s 30,000 students remote was met with sharp criticism from Mayor Fulop with a mixed reaction from parents—a group of parents who have loudly pushed for a return to the classroom versus those who still think it’s too early for in-person instruction.
In the call, Walker blamed a shortage of teachers and other instructional staff willing to return to their schools, noting that more than 450 staff members declined to return to their schools April 15 and 16 when their attendance was deemed mandatory.
“We cannot open schools with teachers and paraprofessionals working from home,” Walker said. “Over 400 (employees) submitted requests (to work remotely from home) based on an increased risk for COVID-19 and while they met the medical requirements, the district cannot provide in-person instruction without them and does not have substitutes to work in school while they work from home.”
Walker added, “We will focus our efforts and most notably our resources on a full in-person reopening in September. I will communicate with the staff about our expectations and inform you if circumstances change.”
Jersey City is one of just 69 school districts exclusively using remote learning for 219,000 students, according to the state’s Department of Education. Murphy noted 526, or 81%, of public schools in New Jersey are currently utilizing the hybrid model for approximately 887,000 student. A total of 186 districts are all in-person, serving 170,000 students, while 30 school district with a student population of 78,000 are using a combination of models across buildings.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 245 outbreaks involving 1,094 cases have been reported, with nine new outbreaks accounting for 31 cases in the weekly update on April 21.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 52 confirmed outbreaks with 198 cases, Passaic County has 16 confirmed outbreaks with 52 cases, Warren has 14 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Sussex has 12 confirmed outbreaks with 48 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has five confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Soft Opening Option
Jersey City Board of Education President Mussab Ali voiced the opinion the schools should reopen for the first time since March 2020, even on a limited basis.
“I think that even if we couldn’t fully reopen, we should’ve done a soft reopening where it is kindergarten to third grade and special education students who come back,” Ali said. “I think the fact the administration wasn’t even able to accomplish that, it’s a failure …Across the board here, there are things that should’ve gotten done that didn’t get done.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 6,235,159 as of April 21. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,890,862 residents have received their first dose with 2,589,609 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 52% have been administered the Pfizer vaccine, 44% the Moderna vaccine and 4% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Demographically, 55% of those vaccinated are women and 45% men. As for ethnicity, 56% are White, 10% Hispanic,10% other, 9% Asian, 8% unknown and 6% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 38% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 25% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 697,555 doses, Essex 484,559 doses, Morris 434,685 doses, Hudson 385,076 doses, Passaic 288,728 doses, Sussex 96,130 doses, and Warren 61,613 doses.
As of April 21, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 865,733 with 2,961 total new PCR cases reported. There were 653 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 121,617. The total number of individual cases for the state is 987,350. 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 46 new deaths, bringing that total to 22,660. The state listed probable deaths at 2,611, bringing the overall total to 25,271. State officials noted 22 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on April 21, Bergen had a total of 264 new confirmed cases and 71 probable cases, Essex 368 new cases and 49 probable cases, Hudson 236 new cases and 59 probable cases, Morris 120 new cases and 31 probable cases, Passaic 367 new cases and 54 probable cases, Sussex 34 new cases and 18 probable cases, and Warren 37 cases and 10 new probable cases.
There are a total of 2,229 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 2,045 cases of the U.K. variant, 130 cases of the California variants, 51 cases of the Brazilian P1 variant, and three cases of the South African variant.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,565, followed by Bergen at 2,508, Hudson with 1,989, Passaic at 1,650, Morris at 956, Sussex at 223 and Warren County at 205.
In regards to probable deaths reported April 21, Essex has 295, Bergen has 294, Morris has 249, Hudson has 210, Passaic has 195, Sussex has 67 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 0.93 up from 0.92 from the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of April 17, was 10.9%; by region, the rate was 10.8% in the North, 11.0% in the Central region and 11.4% in the South.
Officials reported 2,114 patients were hospitalized; 1,961 cases were confirmed and 153 are under investigation. By region, there were 1,067 in the North, 605 in the Central and 442 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 455 are in intensive care units and 248 on ventilators. A total of 262 patients were discharged, while 263 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, 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 86,586, followed by Essex at 84,692, Middlesex at 83,729, Hudson at 77,617, Monmouth at 65,967, Ocean at 63,964, Passaic at 63,335, Union at 58,820, Camden at 46,621, Morris at 41,166, Burlington at 36,978, Mercer at 30,761, Gloucester at 25,393, Atlantic at 24,162, Somerset at 23,520, Cumberland at 13,970, Sussex at 11,156, Hunterdon at 8,504, Warren at 8,444, Salem at 5,201, and Cape May at 4,429.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 12,649, followed by Union at 10,524, Ocean at 9,726, Essex at 9,003, Hudson at 8,728, Monmouth at 7,755, Morris at 7,738, Middlesex at 7,094, Passaic at 6,943, Atlantic at 6,451, Burlington at 6,187, Camden at 6,143, Somerset at 5,526, Cape May at 4,407, Gloucester at 3,764, Mercer at 2,233, Cumberland at 2,204, Sussex at 2,121, Warren at 968, Hunterdon at 836 and Salem 515.
Another 718 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 233 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,573 of the cases, broken down between 2,863 residents and 3,710 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,395 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,729 residents and 21,924 staff, for a total of 54,653 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,018 on April 21. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,863 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.