Gov. Phil Murphy Makes it Official—Students Back to the Classroom in September

The 2021/2022 school year will have all teachers and students back in their classrooms for full in-person instruction when school doors open in September.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced at his May 17 press briefing that upon the conclusion of this school year, portions of Executive Order 175 allowing remote learning will be rescinded—requiring districts to provide full-day, in-person instruction, as they were prior to the coronavirus Public Health Emergency.

Murphy stated if buildings are open for in-person instruction, parents or guardians will not be able to opt-out of in-person instruction.

In-person Instruction

“When schools across New Jersey first closed their doors in March of last year, little was known about COVID-19 and how it spread. But over a year has passed, and we are now facing a very different reality,” said Murphy. “With our health metrics trending decisively in the right direction, the significant progress we have made in our vaccination effort, we are in a position to get our students back into the classroom full-time come Fall.”

While school districts will be required to fully open buildings beginning Fall 2021, remote learning will be permitted in the event that there is a localized outbreak or other emergency. 

“We know that there is no substitute for in-person education and know that a full opening of our schools is critical to the well-being of our students,” commented Murphy. 

Summer School

Summer camps and summer educational programming for Summer 2021 will not be impacted and will still be required to follow relevant health and safety protocols.

“Over the past year we have made the health of our students and school staff a top priority, and stakeholders in all of our school communities have done a commendable job of weathering this storm,” said Acting Commissioner of Education Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan. “Now we turn a corner, and students, educators, and parents throughout New Jersey can look forward to the full return to safe in-person instruction at the start of the 2021–2022 school year.” 

Murphy noted American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently stated that ”the United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school.”

“We know that we can get back to fully in-person safely with the right protocols in place, and that is what we should all be planning to do,” he said. “Should there be a localized outbreak or other emergency, we will act accordingly. Otherwise, buildings will be fully open.” 

Vaccine Availability

Factoring into the state’s decision is the COVID-19 vaccine now available to adolescents as young as 12 and expected to expand.

“My guess (is) that the vaccinations that are in trial, we’re going to see that age limit go down even further over time, hopefully sooner than later,” said the governor.

Murphy said the department of education and health are working to put out back-to-school protocols for the 2021-2022, which he expected to be released in June. 

Ruiz Approval

“We are facing a much different world than one year ago when we had to begin planning for this school year,” said Murphy. “(Last year) we amended it over the course of the summer. We know much more about this virus and how it spreads. We have much more on the ground experience in fighting it.”

Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) praised the state’s decision to end the executive order allowing remote instruction to count towards the 180-day school requirement at the end of the current academic year.

 “While the shift to remote instruction was necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of our teachers, staff and students, it has taken a toll on the academic standing and social-emotional health of our students,” said Ruiz. “Making this announcement now will not only give districts adequate time to prepare, but will also provide the community time to plan. Our return to normalcy hinges on students returning to school and for many parents this will allow them to return to work in a capacity they have not been able to since last March.”

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 8,202,670 in-state, plus an additional 357,974 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 8,560,437 as of May 20. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,812,251 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 166,419 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 3,978,670. 

Demographically, 54% of those vaccinated are women and 46% men. As for ethnicity, 53% are White, 13% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 8% unknown. In regards to the age of those having received the vaccine, 28% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 28% are between the ages of 30-49, and 15% are between the ages of 12-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 906,680 doses (425,552 fully vaccinated), Essex 666,150 doses (304,014), Hudson 567,601 doses (253,583), Morris 545,217 doses (256,622), Passaic 405,943 doses (186,488), Sussex 125,560 doses (59,064), and Warren 80,612 doses (37,467). 

Daily Data

As of May 20, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 884,689 with 513 total new PCR cases reported. There were 146 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 128,068. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,012,757. 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 25 new deaths, bringing that total to 23,393. The state listed probable deaths at 2,660, bringing the overall total to 26,053. State officials noted 15 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on May 20, Bergen had a total of 37 new confirmed cases and six probable cases, Essex 54 new cases and seven probable cases, Hudson 45 new cases and seven probable cases, Morris 24 new cases and nine probable cases, Passaic 41 new cases and 10 probable cases, Sussex 13 new cases and three probable cases, and Warren 14 cases and two probable case.

There are a total of 4,295 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 3,968 cases of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), 160 cases of the California variants (B.1.429 and B.1.427), 156 cases of the Brazilian (P.1) variant, and 11 cases of the South African (B.1.351) variant. 

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,667, followed by Bergen at 2,562, Hudson with 2,044, Passaic at 1,710, Morris at 968, Sussex at 234 and Warren County at 211.

In regards to probable deaths reported May 19, Bergen has 297, Essex has 296, Morris has 253, Hudson has 213, Passaic has 197, Sussex has 67 and Warren has 25.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission reported May 20, it declined to 0.46 from 0.50 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of May 15, was 3.9%; by region, the rate was 4.0% in the North, 3.8% in the Central region and 3.6% in the South. 

Officials reported 781 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 386 in the North, 200 in the Central and 195 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 164 are in intensive care units and 115 on ventilators. A total of 102 patients were discharged, while 101 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 89,377, followed by Middlesex at 84,375, Essex at 84,305, Hudson at 78,483, Monmouth at 67,192, Ocean at 65,375, Passaic at 65,223, Union at 60,175, Camden at 48,651, Morris at 41,696, Burlington at 38,071, Mercer at 31,411, Gloucester at 26,408, Atlantic at 24,822, Somerset at 24,177, Cumberland at 14,756, Sussex at 11,609, Warren at 8,891, Hunterdon at 8,837, Salem at 5,517, and Cape May at 4,587.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,521, followed by Union at 10,982, Ocean at 10,123, Essex at 9,434, Hudson at 9,210, Morris at 8,215, Monmouth at 8,026, Middlesex at 7,428, Passaic at 7,309, Atlantic at 6,610, Camden at 6,578, Burlington at 5,970, Somerset at 5,742, Cape May at 4,545, Gloucester at 3,954, Mercer at 2,357, Sussex at 2,293, Cumberland at 2,215, Warren at 1,014, Hunterdon at 894, and Salem 534.

Another 751 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 281 outbreaks involving 1,263 cases, accounting for 18 additional outbreaks and 106 cases from the previous weekly update on May 10. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 53 confirmed outbreaks with 202 cases, Sussex has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 78 cases, Passaic County has 16 confirmed outbreaks with 57 cases, Warren has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 36 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.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 169 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 4,404 of the cases, broken down between 1,831 residents and 2,573 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,458 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,910 residents and 22,267 staff, for a total of 55,177. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,045 on May 20. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,885 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.


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