Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) held a press conference yesterday to provide updates on New Jersey schools during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as cases continue to rise.
An additional 4,063 new cases and 27 deaths were reported yesterday, pushing the statewide total to 289,562 cases and 14,843 deaths. There were also 1,812 deaths that are potentially linked to COVID-19.
A total of 2,446 patients in New Jersey were hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Tuesday. Of these patients, 2,196 have been confirmed to have COVID-19 and 250 are awaiting test results.
“There is no way to sugarcoat any of these numbers,” Murphy said. “They are not good, and they are trending worse. The only way we can reverse these numbers is to wear masks, to social distance, to wash our hands frequently with soap and water and to not attend any private gatherings outside of those with our immediate families within our own homes.”
Murphy said New Jerseyans should refrain from large family gatherings for Thanksgiving as the capacity for indoor gatherings has been reduced to 10 people.
In partnership with the governors from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Murphy said all colleges and universities throughout the state should provide COVID-19 testing for students living on-campus before they leave for Thanksgiving break.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be encouraged to self-isolate on campus or make arrangements with local health officials if they plan on returning home, he said.
“There are, needless to say, many, many New Jersey students who attend school around the country … so ramping up testing for students prior to their departures home is a critical step for reducing the risk of transmission across our region,” Murphy said.
Over the past week, there have been five in-school outbreaks that have led to 47 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed in-school cases to 239. Murphy said the vast majority of cases remain linked to activities occurring outside of school.
The majority of schools in New Jersey continue to remain open for either in-person or hybrid instruction. As of right now, 99 districts are offering in-person instruction, 529 districts are offering hybrid instruction and 145 districts are operating in a fully remote setting. There are also 38 districts that are using different forms of instruction between buildings.
Murphy said work continues to be done on closing the digital divide for schools providing fully remote or hybrid instruction. As of yesterday, 70.3 percent of districts reported they do not have device or connectivity needs, which he said is a slight increase from last week.
Approximately 35,000 students lack the proper devices or connectivity needed for remote instruction as opposed to 231,000 students during the summer, which is a 12 percent decrease from last week, Murphy said.
“To be sure, we are not going to let up on closing the remaining gap. (The number) 35,000 might be a lot less than 231,000, but it’s still 35,000 too many," he said. "The (New Jersey Department of Education) continues its work in direct collaboration with districts to ensure the best use of resources, the accurate reporting of data and effective communication between districts and students and families at the local level.”