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NJ officials continue to implement measures to combat coronavirus, reopen state's economy

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State officials have continued to take steps this week to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak throughout New Jersey and work toward the state's reopening. As of today, 143,905 total positive cases and 10,138 deaths were reported, according to the COVID-19 Information Hub.

On Saturday, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced the opening of two American Red Cross Convalescent Plasma Collection sites at the American Red Cross Blood Center in Fairfield and University Hospital in Newark. Both sites opened on Monday and residents who have recovered from COVID-19 can visit the Red Cross website to become a plasma donor.

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs also announced Monday that New Jersey received $31,511,487 from the second round of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) CARES Act funding from the federal government, according to a press release. The second round of assistance is intended to be used for buildings and improvements, business assistance, rental assistance, increased public services, planning, capacity building and technical assistance.

On Tuesday, Murphy focused on the discussion of testing expansion and contact tracing in New Jersey. The Daily Targum previously reported that the second measure of Murphy's plan for restarting the state's economy involved doubling the state's testing capacity. He said his next goal is to provide a minimum of 20,000 COVID-19 tests a day by the end of May.

"More testing means more people will know their health status and that means more peace of mind," he said. "More testing creates more data and more data allows us to take more steps forward."

Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health is now requiring all residents and staff of long-term care facilities to be tested by May 26 at the latest and will have to have a follow-up test no later than one week after the first test. All long-term care facilities will also have to confirm with the Department of Health that they have updated their outbreak prevention plans to meet this requirement by May 19.

Murphy said the state is directing $6 million in federal funding to Rutgers to increase its capabilities to produce more of the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR) Infinite Biologics saliva-based test each day. As more testing supplies become available, Murphy said they will deploy tests to areas based on need and where they believe COVID-19 hotspots could emerge.

Several executive orders were issued on Wednesday. These orders allowed the restart of non-essential construction throughout the state, as well as for the reopening of non-essential retail businesses for curbside pick-up only beginning at 6 a.m. on Monday.

Yesterday, Murphy signed another executive order that permits beaches, boardwalks, lakes and lakeshores to remain open while following social distancing guidelines beginning Friday, May 22. He said every beach in the state will be required to establish capacity limitations, enforce social distancing measures, prohibit contact sports and organized events, as well as implement proper and regular sanitation.

This order also allows for shower pavilions, changing areas and restrooms to open at beach locations, he said. Additionally, restroom facilities at parks throughout the state will also be able to reopen, as long as they undergo proper cleaning and sanitation. He said boardwalk restaurants will continue to operate for take-out and delivery services only and amusement parks, playgrounds and visitor centers will remain closed.

A multi-state agreement between New York, Connecticut and Delaware to reopen both public and private beaches with certain restrictions was announced today, according to a press release.

"A trip to the beach is a treasured past time for New Jerseyans on Memorial Day weekend just as it is for residents in our neighboring states," Murphy said, according to the release. "By aligning our social distancing policies for beaches, we can bring some semblance of a 'new normal' to our region ahead of the first weekend of the summer season."

Murphy issued an executive order today for the resumption of elective surgical and other invasive procedures beginning May 26.

He also clarified voting procedures for New Jersey's June 7 primary election. All registered Democratic and Republican voters will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot and there will be a limited number of in-person polling places in each county.

For unaffiliated and inactive voters, Murphy said they will automatically receive a vote-by-mail application and the United State Postal Service will require counties to distribute secure boxes for these materials to be turned in.

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