Child care options for New Jersey’s working families remain on the forefront of Gov. Phil Murphy’s mind. With many parents going back to work and students in the full swing of the school year, there have been reports from around the state of dance studios, churches and other buildings being used as remote learning supervision centers.
At his Monday press briefing, Murphy expressed that he is fine with these arrangements, as long as certain rules are followed.
“Under state law and regulation, these setups are in fact childcare centers that need to be licensed,” he said. “The Department of Children and Families …. has created emergency regulations to allow these centers to undergo and expedited licensure process so they can operate legally.”
Once licensed under these new regulations, buildings will be allowed to operate legally for the duration of the public health emergency or until the end of the 2020-21 school year — whichever comes first.
“We want to ensure that every family who needs childcare services during remote learning times has those services within reach,” Murphy said. “We also want to ensure that these facilities are properly prepared to meet the needs of those students and families.”
Also, in the interest of increased access to child care solutions, the governor announced the income threshold for child care tuition assistance has increased to $150,000. The limit was previously at $75,000. To apply, residents can visit childcarenj.gov/COVID19.
Other notes from Monday’s COVID-19 briefing.
Murphy reported 522 more positive COVID-19 test results throughout the state. The total number of positive tests in New Jersey since the very first positive on March 4 is now 208,713. This is the third time in the last five days where cases have risen over 500.
Ocean and Monmouth counties continue to be two main areas of concern. Out of the 522 positives, 167 are from those two counties combined, with 119 from Ocean County (with 86 coming from Lakewood and its neighboring communities specifically). Monmouth accounts for the remaining 48.
Two more deaths have now been confirmed to be from COVID-19 related complications. The deaths occurred on Sept. 26-27 and they bring the statewide total to 14,351. The number of probable deaths remains at 1,787. There were nine deaths reported in hospitals yesterday, but they are not yet lab-confirmed.
Other hospital numbers:
- In hospital: 507 (320 confirmed cases, 187 under investigation);
- In ICU: 102;
- On ventilators: 34;
- Rate of transmission: 27;
- Positivity rate 62% (from Oct. 1).
Bear hunting regulations
In non-COVID related news, the governor also made an announcement regarding the future of the bear hunt in New Jersey.
“The 2020 bear hunt … will be the last bear hunt under my administration,” Murphy said. “I am grateful to the Fish and Game Council for their commitment to working with the Department of Environmental Protection to address this issue and to chart a better way forward.”
The annual bear hunt falls under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Game Council, who today announced an amendment to the game code that will suspend the bear hunt in New Jersey following the 2020 season. The season, which has already been shortened to Oct. 12-17 this year, has seen changes under Murphy’s administration. In 2018, the governor signed an executive order banning the hunting of black bears on all state lands.
Murphy is optimistic about the change in policies, adding that the break will allow the state to do a complete overhaul of its regulations.
“This will allow the council and the DEP to engage in a through and complete review of current scientific data,” he said. “[The department] will develop a new black bear policy that promotes public safety and welfare, while protecting important wildlife with a focus on non-lethal management techniques.”
Mail dumping in North Arlington
Murphy was asked to comment on the recent report by a man in North Arlington that he found upward of 300 pounds of mail in a dumpster that included hundreds of mail-in ballots. While the governor would not comment officially on the matter, he was joined by Chief Counsel Matt Platkin, who was able to give an update.
“We were notified by USPS this weekend,” Platkin said. “It is a matter that’s under investigation. The mail was recovered from the trash receptacle and has been put back in the mail stream.”
The initial claim, which was made by North Jersey resident Howard Dinger, was posted on Facebook and included a picture of the mail that was supposedly on its way to West Orange. George Flood, an official spokesman for the postal service, commented on Dinger’s post confirming the incident.
“The mail you referenced was reported, collected and delivered,” Flood said. “This matter was then turned over to our Office of Inspector General. We are unable to comment further at this time.”
The final word
Murphy on President Donald Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis:
“Please God, let everybody get through this alive and well and healthy. There’s no silver lining to a loss of life, there just isn’t … Having said that, I think anybody who is reasonable [will say to themselves], ‘We have to base any decisions on science and data and facts.’
The evidence is so overwhelming on what works. On the one hand, it’s basic stuff, and on the other hand, [we know] what puts you at risk. Indoors, close proximity, no face covering, if that weren’t enough, with folks who are COVID positive, that to me is a bad cocktail.”