State officials and the Rutgers administration have continued taking steps this past week to respond to complications caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The total number of cases in New Jersey is now at 188,817 with 14,112 deaths, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
The Daily Targum previously reported that Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) issued an executive order permitting all pre-K through 12 schools and all colleges to reopen for in-person instruction for the upcoming academic year. On Monday, Murphy said the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association will make the final decision on how fall high school sports will operate.
Additionally, Murphy said the eligibility of all student-athletes will remain unchanged regardless of whether they choose to participate in remote-learning or in-person instruction.
“Whether that student is seated in a socially distanced classroom or at their kitchen table does not matter,” he said. “They are a student of that school and they can play for that school.”
Murphy also announced this week that 12 New Jersey counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, Salem, Somerset, Sussex and Warren, will receive a combined $37 million to help combat the effects of the pandemic, according to a press release.
These counties were ineligible for federal funding through the CARES Act due to having populations of less than 500,000 individuals, according to the release.
“There is no denying that COVID-19 has placed an incredible amount of strain on resources across all levels of government,” Murphy said, according to the release. “I’ve been clear from day one of this crisis that we’ll spare no expense to protect the health and safety of New Jerseyans, and that requires us to provide our communities with the support they need.”
This funding will be dispersed in three separate installments: to provide counties with reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses, to help them develop and maintain testing sites and to support ongoing testing of high-risk groups based on each county’s population size, according to the release.
In addition, Murphy announced that New Jersey’s public water, gas and electric utility companies will extend their voluntary moratorium preventing shutoffs for both residential and commercial customers until October 15, according to a press release. These companies will also offer a deferred payment agreement of at least 12 months and for up to 24 months.
“Utility services are critical and must continue uninterrupted during this unprecedented time,” Murphy said, according to the release. “No one should have to make a decision on whether to put food on the table or pay for basic necessities.”
Antonio M. Calcado, executive vice president for strategic planning and operations and chief operating officer at Rutgers, also sent a University wide announcement with the updated restart plan that has been submitted to the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.
The document, Returning to Rutgers — Institutional Plan for Restart, details specific plans for the layout of University buildings to maintain social distancing and plans for training staff on certain protocols, among other things.
“Our guiding principle remains the health and safety of our community,” Calcado said, according to the announcement. “This document provides additional and in-depth information on academics, student life, clinical operations, transportation, athletics, research and a host of relevant issues at Rutgers.”
Calcado said they also expect updates to take the changing conditions into consideration and will update this plan every Tuesday morning, according to the announcement.