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Jersey City Covid-19 Updates 7/2


Here are the latest Jersey City Covid-19 updates and information on reopenings.

If you feel sick and/or believe you may be infected call your healthcare provider and/or the Jersey City Covid-19 hotline at 201-547-5208 before traveling to a hospital.

Reopening

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Jersey City playgrounds and splash pads will reopen on July 2 and all parks are now open. Masks or cloth facial coverings must be worn and social distancing practices should be followed as much as possible.

Jersey City outdoor pools will reopen on July 3 beginning with the Pavonia/Marion Pool located at 914 Pavonia Avenue.  The Lafayette Pool and Aquatic Center located at 303 Van Horne Street is scheduled on July 10.

Pool access is restricted to residents only and a maximum of 50-percent capacity to allow for social distancing.  Patrons are encouraged to wear a cloth face covering while not in the pool.  Face coverings are not allowed in the pool, due to increased risk of drowning.  Staff will be wearing face coverings, except lifeguards will not wear a face covering while on-duty actively lifeguarding.

Social distancing required when not in the pool, except for immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or partners and required when in the water, unless an individual needs assistance in order to swim.

Pool usage is broken down into two-hour shifts where sanitization will take place for an hour between each swim session.  The full schedules for each pool can be found here.

Museums, aquariums, and indoor recreational facilities (such as indoor bowling alleys, batting cages, shooting ranges and arcades) will be able to reopen on July 2 at 25 percent of their capacity.

Jersey City Libraries will reopen on July 6 to patrons at 25 percent capacity.

Bars and restaurants are open for drive-through, delivery, takeout and outdoor dining, while following appropriate safety and sanitization protocols. Microbreweries or brewpubs may be open for home delivery only. Indoor dining is not allowed. The reopening of indoor dining spaces has been postponed.

Child care centers can reopen their doors to all clients, while following all safety guidelines.

Personal care businesses may reopen, while following appropriate mitigation requirements.

Indoor gatherings are now permitted of up to 100 people or 25% of a building’s capacity, with attendees wearing face coverings.

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 500 persons, and outdoor religious services and political activities will continue to have no numerical limits, effective at 6 a.m. on Friday, July 3rd. All indoor gatherings will continue to be limited to 25% capacity of the rooms in which they will take place, with a maximum of 100 persons.

Jersey City Covid-19 Testing

Photo furnished by Marilyn Cintron, CEO of Alliance

Free COVID testing for JC residents remains available at the Fire HQ at 465 Marin Blvd between 8:30-11:30am (closed this Friday, July 4). Antibody tests are no longer offered by Jersey City.

A team of organizations is working together to bring Covid-19 and Anti-Body testing to Jersey City’s Far South Side on Thursday, July 2 and Friday, July 3 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. each day. The testing opportunity is a partnership between the State of New Jersey, Interfaith Urgent Care, Cityline Church, Jersey City Together, and the City of Jersey City.  Testing is free and open to all, regardless of where you live or whether you have insurance. Pre-registration is strongly requested (at www.njtogether.org/testing ). Photo ID and insurance are requested but not required.

Additional future dates and locations are can be viewed here.

Parking

All parking regulations have been restored and in effect.

33 school parking lots have been opened throughout each corridor of the city for residents to park their vehicles during the State of Emergency.

Click here for map of JC school parking lots.
Click here for list of JC school parking lots.

Please see our prior Jersey City Covid-19 updates.

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Jersey City Covid-19 Updates 5/29


As emergency restrictions ease, here are the latest Jersey City Covid-19 updates.

If you feel sick and/or believe you may be infected call your healthcare provider and/or the Jersey City Covid-19 hotline at 201-547-5208 before traveling to a hospital.

Outdoor Gatherings

Outdoor gatherings have been increased to permit up to 25 people as follows:

  • The gathering must take place entirely outdoors except for restroom use;
  • Limit capacity to no more than 25 people at all times;
  • Require attendees to be six feet apart at all times, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners;
  • Prohibit contact between attendees, and no organized or contact sports;
  • If the event is an organized gathering, the organizer should demarcate six feet of spacing in the area of the gathering to demonstrate appropriate spacing for social distancing;
  • Limit provided seating to single individuals, spaced six feet apart, and sanitized after each use;
  • Prohibit sharing of any physical items provided and require sanitization before and after each use; and
  • Require contactless pay options wherever feasible.

More information covering recreation can be found in Governor Murphy’s press release here.

Reopening of Businesses and the Economy

New Jersey’s strategic reopening plan is outlined here.

Jersey City Covid-19 Testing

Jersey City is providing free Covid-19 testing to any resident who requests it regardless of symptoms.  Testing is by appointment only.  Proof of residency is required.  Test site will be assigned when appointment is scheduled.  To schedule,  call (201) 547-5535, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No appointment is required at the walk up test site at 465 Marin Blvd. Jersey City residents can walk up for Covid-19 testing on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and antibody testing on Mondays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Bring proof of Jersey City address.

Starting today, May 29, a second walk up Covid-19 testing site is available for all Jersey City residents with no appointment needed at the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center, 140 Martin Luther King Drive.  Hours are 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  Please bring proof of Jersey City address.

Jersey City Business Support

Jersey City businesses seeking reopening support including Covid-19 testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can sign up using this form.

Restaurants seeking additional outdoor seating on sidewalks and parking lanes can sign up using this form.

Parking

All parking regulations have been restored and in effect.

33 school parking lots have been opened throughout each corridor of the city for residents to park their vehicles during the State of Emergency.

Click here for map of JC school parking lots.
Click here for list of JC school parking lots.

There is free, off-street parking is available at Old Colony Parking Lot, Brunswick School, and 235 Pavonia. Click the links to sign-up.

Please see our prior Jersey City Covid-19 updates.

Header: Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

 

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School Board Prepares Contingency Plan for Reopening Schools in Fall


New Task Force Likely to be Created to Set Guidelines

At Thursday’s Jersey City School Board meeting, trustees discussed a contingency plan for reopening schools in the fall. If Governor Phil Murphy orders schools to reopen in September, School Superintendent Franklin Walker and members of the board agreed that now’s the time to create a Covid-19 task force to oversee the details.

Trustees offered input on the steps necessary for reopening schools. Superintendent Walker emphasized safety as a main priority, thereby creating a Covid-free environment for teachers, students and administrators. Regularly disinfecting schools, testing students for coronavirus symptoms and enforcing social distancing and face mask restrictions are just some of the items on the school board’s to-do list.

“At this time, we don’t have any specifics on the re-entry of schools,” Superintendent Walker said. “If we go back, we’re not going to go back until September, if we’re lucky. The pandemic has changed how we do everything. As we await the governor’s announcement that New Jersey will reopen, we must be patient and help students succeed in the remainder of the school year.”

Superintendent Walker reassured parents watching the virtual meeting that prior to the reopening of schools, there will be transparency to “make them fully aware of what’s involved in the re-opening.”

Schools’ Covid-19 Task Force 

Superintendent Walker and the board discussed the need to assemble a Covid-19 task force of board members, teachers and parents to outline and orchestrate the reopening of Jersey City’s schools and the re-entry of its 30,000 students.

“Do we have children wear masks, do we reduce the number of children in each class for social distancing, do we incorporate the Copenhagen structure where some students go in the morning, some go in the afternoon?” Walker said. “We have to have a task force to come together and identify a structure and a process for when we bring students back. As long as the executive order is in place it gives us flexibility to customize our district to the safety and welfare of our students. Right now, before we decide we’re opening schools back up after the governor gives us the okay, we have to fine tune the details.”

Trustee Gerald Lyons and Vice President Gina Verdibello voiced concern about face masks for staff and children.

“Masks for children are a lot smaller,” Vice President Verdibello said. “If they do go back to school and wear a mask, that has to be considered. Let’s hope they fit right and get provided for free for every child when they come in.”

Superintendent Walker discussed temperature screenings to detect Covid-19 on a call with Mayor Steven Fulop and the Office of Emergency Management and Stacey Flanagan, director of Jersey City’s Health and Human Services Department, he said. Superintendent Walker said there’s a need for partnering with the city to help defray certain costs, like testing students for Covid-19 at a cost of 50 cents per test.

“The question came up, ‘Who is going to pay for the test?’” Walker said. “Who is going to pay for 30,000 students? We can test the students today, and tomorrow it can be a different situation. We don’t have the finances to support that, but as a city, based on stimulus and other monies available, there may be monies for that.”

It was announced in April, that New Jersey will receive $3.5 billion from the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (aka the CARES Act) funding which was signed into law on March 27. Jersey City Schools will get a portion of Jersey City’s allotment.

“I am upset at our City Fathers talking about how we are going to afford testing,” Trustee Marilyn Roman said. “This district has done a great job. We’ve done all we can to keep the children alive and healthy. This is important. You have to do it. It’s important to keep our kids safe no matter how much it costs.”

During the public comments section of the meeting, Jersey City resident Mary Cruz called in with concerns about cleaning the schools.

“People are talking about opening the schools,” Cruz addressed the board by phone. “Using the cleaning supplies that the Board of Ed buys for custodians does not satisfy the place being clean. We need to sanitize the toys used by the children in Pre-K. We can’t take any chances. Who’s going to clean those children’s toys?”

Superintendent Walker addressed Cruz’s concerns about school cleanliness. He said that prior to reopening, the Board of Education will perform a comprehensive cleaning of all the schools.

“Because of the circumstance of the health crisis we’re in, the process will be much greater, and it could require additional professional services to support that,” Walker said. “We are in the planning stage. We’re cautiously planning. We want strong support from state and city on what we do preparing students to enter the building. Our position is to keep everything in line as this whole process evolves.”

A Two-Day School Week

Trustee Alexander Hamilton thanked Superintendent Walker for keeping a sense of unity in the school district during the pandemic. He also voiced his support for students having a two-day school week.

“Some kids go Monday and Wednesday, other kids go Tuesday and Friday, and one day they clean the school,” Hamilton said. “That’s what my son misses the most, to see his teachers and his classmates. I would love to work with you on something like that. Let’s make sure we can use the foundation you created and come up with a plan that the children still have touch points with their teachers.”

Trustees Noemi Velasquez and Marilyn Roman brought up their concern about sanitizing the schools and how regular cleaning doesn’t offer enough security for the teachers. Roman said regular testing for Covid-19 needs to be put in place for the teachers and everyone else to feel safe in the schools.

“Everything has to do with testing,” Roman said. “Why would we send these teachers back to schools knowing they might be sick or asymptomatic? Doesn’t there have to be a testing process? As a teacher, I would not be comfortable unless I knew everybody was well. Maybe our department of health can help us? We need to start right away. It takes a long time to get those testing kits.”

President Richardson and the trustees adjourned the public portion of the meeting and went into private session for further discussion. Before signing off, Superintendent Walker expressed to the parents and the board watching the virtual meeting that living through these tough days, it’s important to never lose hope.

“Those of us who can dream, must dream,” Walker added. “I dream next school year we can meet the academic, health and social needs of all of our students.”

In Other News

On Monday, Governor Phil Murphy announced that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, New Jersey schools will stay closed the rest of the term.

“All schools will remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year — to protect the health of our children, our educators and their families,” Governor Murphy announced on Twitter. “Guided by safety and science, this is the best course of action.”

Referendum Pulled

Mayor Steve Fulop and the Jersey City Council announced on Monday that the council will vote on a resolution at the May 6 council meeting to withdraw a referendum for voters to decide in November’s general election if the Board of Education should move to an appointed board.

“The world is a very different place today than it was in January when we approved the referendum,” Mayor Fulop said. “We still have major concerns with the Board of Education’s decision to raise taxes on residents during the pandemic, but the reality is we don’t want to be more disruptive to the schools when they return in September after being closed for months.”

Next Budget Meeting

The Jersey City Public Schools will hold its 2020-2021 budget adoption meeting virtually on Wed., May 13, beginning 6 p.m.

The meeting may be viewed live at https://www.facebook.com/TheSchoolDistrictOfJerseyCity.

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Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park Will Reopen on Sat., May 2


Lincoln Park will reopen on Saturday, May 2, however numerous restrictions on its use will apply according to the Hudson County Executive’s Office.

Open will be:

  • The dog run
  • The lawns
  • The ring road for bicycling
  • The jogging track (starting Tues., May 5)

Closed will be:

  • The basketball court
  • The tennis courts
  • The picnic areas
  • The bathrooms

In addition:

  • Face masks must be worn at all times
  • Users must remain six feet apart
  • Parking will be restricted to half the regular number of spots
  • Vehicular traffic will be banned Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For further details and for information on the visitation status of other Hudson County parks, click here HERE.

Also reopening (with restrictions) on Saturday, May 2 will be Liberty State Park.

 

Header: Lincoln Park by David Wilson/Jersey City Times file photo

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closed business

Why Were NJ’s Small Businesses Shortchanged by Federal Program to Offset COVID-19 Losses?


New Jersey is one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19, but less than 20% of small firms here got an award from the Paycheck Protection Program. Some folks say politics played a big part in that

This story was written and produced by NJ Spotlight. It is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. To read more, visit njspotlight.com.

Full story link – HERE.

By Colleen O’Dea

New Jersey businesses got more than $9.5 billion from the first round of a federal program aimed at helping small firms through the COVID-19 pandemic. While that’s a lot of money, New Jersey has one of the smallest percentages of state businesses getting assistance in the nation.

An analysis of the Paycheck Protection Program by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that New Jersey and New York, the two states hit hardest by the viral spread, ranked nearly last in terms of the percentage of all businesses — 18% — that got an award from the first round of the government’s main small-business assistance program. Only California and Nevada have smaller proportions, 15% and 17%, respectively.

Reveal’s report hinted that politics may have played a part in the distribution of these loans or grants:

  • The 10 states where the greatest percentage of businesses got loans included eight that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and all five states without stay-at home-orders as of April 23.
  • The nine states and District of Columbia where the smallest percentage of businesses got loans — including New Jersey and New York — included seven that voted for Hillary Clinton and five that put in place stay-at-home orders as of March 23.

No comment from feds

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Small Business Administration, which is overseeing the initial $349 billion round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was exhausted by April 16 and a second round that opened Monday with another $310 billion available, declined to comment on the question of potential political influence. PPP is part of the CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus and relief bill Congress passed in late March.

“We’ve seen massive issues with the PPP from day one,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3), who was named Wednesday to the bipartisan House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis that is overseeing the federal response to the pandemic and the economic impact it has had on the American people.

Whatever the reason, the Reveal analysis shows that the 33,519 New Jersey businesses that got a 1% loan of up to $10 million, which could become a grant if they meet certain conditions that include keeping staff on their payroll, represent just 18% of the total number of businesses in the state as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. The average award to a New Jersey firm lucky enough to obtain assistance was about $284,000 in the first round.

There were a number of now well-documented problems with the rollout of the PPP, including an overwhelming number of applicants, computer difficulties and confusion over application requirements. Many banks also appear to have favored their best clients, which made it hard for the average small business to get a loan. A number of large, high-profile companies — including Ruth’s Chris Steak House and the Los Angeles Lakers — wound up getting loans but reported returning the money after public outcry.

No relief for needy businesses

Several of the state’s congressional representatives complained about problems with the program preventing truly needy small businesses in New Jersey from getting relief.

“While Congress allocated billions of dollars in the first stimulus bill for small businesses, the Trump administration failed to ensure the funding was distributed fairly to the businesses it was meant to serve,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6), adding that House Democrats fought for an additional $60 billion in the second round of funding specifically for smaller lenders to help mom and pop businesses. “I remain concerned that the administration is not upholding congressional intent and as a result, many New Jersey small businesses may not gain access to the funding they desperately need.”

It is impossible to know right now who has gotten funding because the SBA still has not released details about individual businesses that got assistance, although a spokeswoman says the administration plans to do so as soon as possible.

Kim decried the lack of transparency to date.

“Small businesses in New Jersey have been hard hit, and a program that has been burdened by bureaucracy and isn’t transparent to our taxpayers isn’t what we need right now,” he said, adding that as a member of the House select committee he “will be working to shine a light on where the money has gone so we can make sure our taxpayer dollars are being well spent.”

Eileen Kean, New Jersey state director of the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business), said one member who has a strong relationship and existing loan with his bank had a good experience getting a PPP loan. But that was the exception, rather than the rule.

“It was really, really difficult,” she said. “Most small businesses don’t necessarily, especially if they’ve been in business for a while, don’t have existing business loans … For most of the people it was nothing.”

Another chance

Business owners were happy for another bite at the apple and, in particular, that the SBA set aside eight hours Wednesday beginning at 4:00 p.m., during which the administration accepted loans only from lending institutions with less than $1 billion in assets, to give the truly small business owner a chance at getting money.

“We really see that as being fair,” Kean said.

A coalition of about 70 pro-business groups organized by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association wrote the state’s congressional delegation last week recommending a number of changes to improve the PPP, including greater flexibility in using the funds, expanded timeframe for the loan forgiveness period and distribution of funding directly to businesses, rather than banks. The organizations pleaded for additional kinds of assistance, as well, given the dire circumstances in which many businesses find themselves.

“Time is of the essence, which is why we are asking that you act expeditiously to address additional funding needs, the shortfalls of the CARES Act, and to take action on new measures that will assist in our recovery efforts,” they wrote. “The immediate closure of large parts of our economy by this pandemic has resulted in unprecedented hardships.”

The total $9.5 billion in PPP loans to New Jersey businesses in the first round was the 10th largest allotment to a state. Firms got another $381 million from two other SBA loan programs, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and EIDL Loan Advance programs, according to the administration. Counting all three programs, New Jersey businesses have so far gotten $9.9 billion in federal assistance, the 11th highest among states.

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Jersey City to Offer Free Corona Virus Testing to all Residents


Mayor Steven M. Fulop announced today increased efforts to offer COVID-19 testing by broadening efforts with expanded and targeting testing opportunities to all Jersey City residents.  To further the city’s efforts, the city will soon offer antibody testing.   A mobil unit will test vulnerable residents in senior living housing and public housing sites.

“As one of the most densely populated areas in the region, our efforts to make free testing available has proven effective,” said Stacey Flanagan, Director of Health and Human Services.  “Now we want to extend testing to as many people as possible, and adding antibody testing will really bolster the expansive health and safety efforts we’ve put in place since day one.”

Appointment-based testing will open to all Jersey City residents beginning next week.  Anyone requesting a test can call the COVID-19 Testing Call Center at 201-547-5535 seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Testing will continue Monday through Friday at the drive-through site located in the southwest portion of the city at 575 NJ-440.

In an effort to expand access to some of our most vulnerable residents, the walk-up testing site will operate on the rotating schedule below:

Mondays & Wednesdays – Outside Public Safety Headquarters located at 465 Marin Boulevard

Tuesdays – Mobile testing at various Jersey City Housing Authority locations

Thursdays – Mobile testing at various senior living facilities

Fridays – Mary McLeod Bethune Community Center located at 140 MLK Drive

 

 

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Explainer: COVID-19 Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three…


Making sense of the variety of tests being put into service to help stem the coronavirus pandemic and save lives

This story was written and produced by NJ Spotlight. It is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. To read more, visit njspotlight.com.

Full story link – HERE.

By Lilo H. Stainton

Like leaders in other states hard-hit by the novel coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly stressed that New Jersey’s public health and economic revival must be rooted in widespread, rapid-result testing of residents.

The governor called for doubling the Garden State’s testing capacity — approximately 10,000 tests a day — but has yet to detail what testing methods will be used and how these programs will be deployed across the Garden State. Since the outbreak began in early March, more than 116,000 residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including nearly 6,800 who died.

“Having a robust and greatly expanded testing program in place is vital to our being able to begin to reopen responsibly our state,” Murphy said last week during a daily press briefing that highlighted one of two COVID-19 tests developed by Rutgers University, one of which officials said could be scaled up in weeks to test 20,000 or even 30,000 people daily.

“Without testing, we will not be able to take the necessary steps to contain future cases and prevent them from becoming boomerang outbreaks,” he added.

Officials at the state Department of Health note that diagnostic tests — which can tell if the virus is currently present in someone’s body — are most useful for guiding public health actions, like deciding to quarantine infected individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  These tests can be performed in various ways, involving swabs or saliva, and are now in use at more than 100 public and private screening sites in New Jersey, officials said.

There is also growing interest in antibody tests, generally performed by analyzing blood or plasma to find out if someone’s body contains an immunoglobulin — a protein developed by the immune system that indicates a person has at some point been infected. (Scientists are still studying how these antibodies may protect people against reinfection.) While the accuracy of some versions has been questioned, antibody screenings are now publicly available at some hospitals and labs in New Jersey and Trenton-based Capital Health is testing members of its workforce to give them peace of mind and to better understand the spread of the virus.

“We realized the highest-risk group getting infected and dying was health care workers” based on what we saw in Italy and New York, said Dr. Robert Remstein, director of accountable care at Capital. “We said, ‘we need to do something to protect our workforce beyond getting them personal protective equipment.’”

Patrick De Deyne, Capital’s head of clinical research, said the program was developed weeks ago when testing options were extremely limited and it will eventually involve close to 2,000 staff members, from those on the COVID-19 wards to housekeeping professionals. “Everyone is equally important,” he said.

Some states have started to deploy public antibody testing, including California and New York, which conducted random screening on 3,000 people at grocery stores and big-box outlets. One in five residents of New York City were likely infected, the state found; rates were lower in other areas. New Jersey is considering similar efforts, officials suggest.

The two types of test provide very different information, but experts believe both will be important as New Jersey and other states move forward. “You’ve got two options here: the snapshot of a moment in time versus watching a movie,” Murphy explained Wednesday, adding that state officials were working “morning, noon and night” on a testing strategy. “I suspect we will firmly come down on ‘we need both.’ And we need both for different reasons,” he said.

Diagnostic tests

In a diagnostic test, samples are taken from a patient’s respiratory system and analyzed for the presence of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Initially, this required a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab, in which a clinician took a sample from deep within a patient’s nasal cavity or the back of their throat.

Specimens are sent to a lab, assembled into a batch and run through a machine, a process that can take as little as 24 hours to 48 hours but stretched to beyond a week as the system became overloaded. The results are either positive — someone has the virus — or negative; the test cannot determine if someone has been infected in the past, but it can detect the virus in someone who is not showing symptoms, experts note.

These were the techniques used at some of the first public testing sites in New Jersey, operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with state and local officials, and initially limited to individuals who had fever, coughing or other COVID-19 symptoms. To date, roughly 2.7% of state residents have been tested.

But the collection process is invasive and uncomfortable for patients and requires significant staff and personal protective equipment, or PPE, the masks, gowns and other gear health care workers wear to avoid becoming infected. And the delay in processing created problems for public health officials seeking to contain the spread.

Researchers at Rutgers University tackled several of these problems. In March, David Alland, director of the Public Health Institute at New Jersey Medical School, announced that his team had worked with a molecular diagnostics company to create a “point-of-contact” test that could be processed on site in 45 minutes; the development was hailed as a game-changer in the coronavirus response. (Other even faster tests have since been developed elsewhere.)

In mid-April, Rutgers Professor Andrew Brooks, head of RUCDR — a Rutgers genetics research group based in Piscataway — announced his team had worked with a private lab to create a saliva-based diagnostic test, the first of its kind to receive federal approval. This version has the advantage of being noninvasive, thus requiring far fewer clinicians to collect samples and therefore less PPE; officials have chosen it for use in the state’s five centers for developmentally disabled adults and at 16 nursing homes in South Jersey. Processing the saliva does take 24 hours to 48 hours in a lab, however.

Antibody test

Another metric is the antibody — or serologic — test, which indicates exposure to the virus at some point in the past; different types of tests identify different forms of antibodies, which can change during the course of an immune response. But it could be another six months before experts can determine what level of protection these antibodies actually provide against reinfection, experts said.

“At this time there’s not enough information from these antibody tests to make a determination like a back-to-work determination,” said Dr. Christina Tan, New Jersey’s state epidemiologist.

While these tests aren’t useful in diagnosing a patient or making quarantine decisions, they can help researchers better understand the full impact of COVID-19, which can be spread by people who are asymptomatic. It can also be used to clear individuals who want to donate “convalescent plasma” in which white blood cells from those who had COVID-19 are given to new patients to help build their immunity.

But there are questions about the accuracy of these tests, and federal officials have approved just a handful of the more than 100 versions developed. People also react very differently to infections, with some producing more antibodies than others, further complicating the testing process.

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new jeresy economic development authority

Murphy Gives Local Officials Option to Push Back Property-Tax Deadline


Governor gives cities, towns ability to lengthen grace period by a month to June 1, but concerns already being raised about next payment deadline on August 1

This story was written and produced by NJ Spotlight. It is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. To read more, visit njspotlight.com.

Full story link – HERE.

By John Reitmeyer

An executive order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy just days before May 1 property-tax payments are due is enabling local officials to push back the payment deadline by a full month.

Murphy’s 11th-hour executive order doesn’t automatically extend the May 1 payment deadline, but instead gives New Jersey’s municipalities the option of lengthening a statutory grace period to help taxpayers struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order was announced during a media briefing on the pandemic held in Trenton on Tuesday. It drew immediate praise, including from officials who represent the state’s many cities and towns, some of which are facing their own financial hardships amid the still-unfolding pandemic.

State of grace for taxpayers

In communities that choose to take advantage of the executive order, taxpayers will be able to wait until June 1 to submit their May 1 payments, without facing the penalties and interest that local officials can charge after the grace period, which typically lasts 10 days.

“I think it was wise to make this permissive,” said Michael Cerra, the assistant executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. “It’s in the hands of local officials.”

New Jersey has been among the hardest-hit states as the pandemic has spread across the country in recent weeks, trailing only New York in reported COVID-19 infections and fatalities. In addition, strict social-distancing measures ordered by Murphy to prevent further spread of the disease have shut down many businesses that have been deemed “nonessential,” and unemployment claims have reached record highs in recent weeks.

In response to the economic hardships, Murphy, a first-term Democrat, had already taken action to delay the state’s April 15 income-tax deadline. Other newly enacted measures have also assisted homeowners struggling to pay mortgages and tenants in danger of falling behind on their rent.

Murphy’s ‘additional measure of relief’

Murphy described his latest executive order as “an additional measure of relief” as he discussed it during Tuesday’s briefing.

Under a quarterly-payment schedule established in state law, property taxes are due on the first day of February, May, August and November. They can be paid directly to a municipality or through a mortgage company, which is something many homeowners do as they pay down home loans over the long term.

State law allows for the 10-day grace period for property owners to make their payments without facing penalties or being charged interest.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who leads the state Department of Community Affairs, said the payment delay for taxpayers that will be allowed under Murphy’s executive order will help property owners who “need extra time to get their finances in order.”

“We understand that many property owners are coping with financial challenges they’ve never had to face before because of this pandemic,” she said during the briefing.

Stephanie Hunsinger, New Jersey state director for AARP, said she hopes “all New Jersey municipalities act immediately to provide relief to their residents.”

“On behalf of AARP New Jersey’s nearly 1.3 million members, we applaud Gov. Murphy and his administration for issuing today’s executive order,” Hunsinger said.

But many communities are also getting hammered themselves by the pandemic as social-distancing regulation have restricted many activities that generate significant revenue. And while New Jersey is notorious for having some of the nation’s highest property taxes, those bills fund much of the frontline services that are being leaned on heavily during the pandemic, including police and other first responders, as well as municipal health officials and sanitation workers.

In addition, while municipalities collect property taxes, they must turn over a large portion of the revenue to local schools and county governments in transfers that are due by the 15th of every month.

Can local officials afford the extension?

Making it an option for a town to extend the 10-day grace period allows local officials to work with their professionals to assess whether they can afford to offer the extension, especially since the deadline for turning over tax collections to school districts and counties still remains in effect, Cerra said.

With the intervention coming from Murphy so close to the May 1 deadline, many local officials had already begun to take action on their own to give their residents a break. In some cases, officials passed local resolutions that lowered the interest rates that can be charged for late payments to the lowest amount allowed under state law, which is less than 1%.

The executive order creates a uniform way for municipal officials to provide taxpayers with a break during the pandemic, just as Murphy has by doing things like delaying the April 15 income-tax deadline, said Cerra, whose organization will likely be drafting a model resolution to distribute to local officials.

“I think local officials were looking to do same,” Cerra said.

Legislation had been proposed in recent weeks in the state Assembly to push back the May 1 deadline for many homeowners to July 15, which would have matched the state’s new deadline for filing income taxes. But that bill has stalled since its introduction.

Despite Tuesday’s action from the governor, Cerra said the next quarterly payments, which will be due on August 1, have already been flagged as a looming concern. Many homeowners may have had enough in escrow accounts to cover their May 1 property-tax payments, but they may still be facing economic hardships several months from now.

“We’re a little bit concerned about August 1,” he said.

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State Parks to Open

Liberty State Park Will Reopen on Saturday, May 2


Liberty State Park along with New Jersey state parks will reopen on Saturday, May 2.

Governor Murphy will sign an executive order today to reopen New Jersey’s state park and allow county parks and golf courses to reopen.  Information on Lincoln and Washington Parks will hopefully be forthcoming.

This order will take effect at sunrise on Saturday, May 2.

Social distancing will continue to be mandated.

See our opinion piece urging the reopening of Liberty State Park HERE.

 

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