Murphy optimistic, anticipating smooth school reopening process

As September begins, parents and kids alike are anxious for students to get back to school. In his media briefing Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy told residents to rest assured that New Jersey is in the best possible position when it comes to keeping schools safe.

“We are confident that these steps we have in place will make the kind of chaotic situations we have seen in other states far less likely to happen in ours,” Murphy said. “We also have in place specific health guidance for what to do when a case arises in a school, or if we see a spike in cases or a cluster in school. We are ready.”

According to Murphy, 434 school districts are fully prepared to begin next week with a hybrid model of both in-person and remote learning. An additional 68 districts will open to all in-person instruction, 242 will be all-remote and 22 will go with some combination of all-of-the-above.

Joining the governor was interim Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer, who emphasized the need to have the state help students, families and educators with the technology they will need to be using this school year.

“We want to help educators get the training they need to effectively engage with their students,” Dehmer said. “We also want to make sure parents and families know how to use the technology that links them to the schools.”

In the revised fiscal 2021 budget that was announced last week, $8.7 billion will be allocated in direct aid to schools. According to Dehmer, two-thirds of school districts across the state will receive more funding this year than last year.

Other notes from Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing:

Health metrics

An additional 329 positive COVID-19 test results were reported, bringing the cumulative total to 192,595 cases in the state.

There have been an additional 11 deaths reported that are now confirmed to be from COVID-19-related complications. All of these deaths were from the past five days and bring the statewide total of confirmed deaths to 14,181.

The number of probable deaths has been updated to 1,783. Additionally, there were 14 reported deaths in New Jersey hospitals yesterday, but they are not yet confirmed as COVID-19-related.

Other hospital numbers:

  • In hospitals: 514 (270 confirmed cases, 244 under investigation);
  • In ICU: 99;
  • On ventilators: 29;
  • Rate of transmission: 96;
  • Positivity rate: 14% (from Aug. 29).

Travel advisory states

Gov. Murphy also announced that, after going down significantly for the first time last week, the list of states on New Jersey’s travel advisory list has increased.

Alaska and Montana have now returned to the list, which now includes 33 states and territories. To make the list, a state must have, over a seven-day rolling average, either more than 10 new cases per 100,00 residents, or a daily positivity greater than 10%.

If arriving from one of the states on the list, travelers are advised to observe a 14-day self-quarantine period. The full list of states can be viewed at covid19.nj.gov/travel.

New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund

Murphy also recognized a special guest at his briefing: first Lady Tammy Murphy. The governor praised the first lady and the people of New Jersey for their help in growing the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. Tammy Murphy served as its founding chair.

The fund used donations to fight the medical, social and economic impact of COVID-19 in the state. To date, NJPRF has raised $38 million to help residents affected by the virus.

Donations are still being accepted at njprf.org.

Final word

Murphy on the challenges of reopening school districts:

Every school district is unique. Each has its own unique makeup and faces its own unique challenges. There are no, and can be no, one-size-fits-all measures. We have asked our educational leaders to lead, and they have, so far, shown themselves up to that task.”