NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Gov. Phil Murphy said his administration is working with local school districts for the inevitability that every district will be closed for a prolonged period in response to the coronavirus COVID-19.
Those plans are on hold while the state tries to work with local schools to ensure they can provide for students’ food security and remote learning needs during a long-term school shutdown.
Although 85 percent of the state’s school districts have acceptable food security plans, Murphy said that would leave more than 200,000 of the state’s 1.4 million public school children who rely on school-provided food without enough to eat if a statewide shutdown was ordered today.
The state has also found that some 259,000 students across New Jersey do not have devices to complete remote instruction, Murphy said.
“So, when we talk about taking a step like this, it’s not that we don’t think it’s a smart thing to do, but you have to do it responsibly,” he said. “You have to do it right.”
Murphy seemed to be addressing critics who questioned why his office would not shut down schools, yet issue a recommendation to cancel all events with more than 250 people.
Friday’s press conference was not only the first since that recommendation, but it was also the governor’s first since he had surgery to remove a tumor from his kidney. He said and First Lady Tammy Murphy were thankful for the “outpouring of support.”
However, there was little room for good feeling or pleasantries as Murphy quickly turned the meeting toward the state's preparedness in the face of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Judy Persichilli, the commissioner of the state's Health Department, said there are 21 new cases, including one in Middlesex County. That brings the statewide total to 50, including one fatality, a Bergen County man.
There’s some help on the way, Murphy said.
The Federal Department of Human Services in the coming days is sending a shipment of medical supplies for health workers. Soon, they will be given 84,000 respirators, 200,000 surgical facemasks, and 38,000 face shields.
The state is responding to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in other ways, too:
All residents who have their car licenses, auto registrations or auto inspections due for renewal by May 31 will receive an automatic two-month extension.
Murphy has put in a request asking the federal government for an extension of the Real ID deadline.
The State Board of Public Utilities has confirmed, in cooperation with utility companies, all shutoff notices have been suspended for the time being.
Murphy’s office has applied to the Federal Department of Transportation for a waiver to allow the local trucking industry “the flexibility it needs” to keep supplies rolling to market.
The state is applying to the federal government to allow SNAP recipients an additional half-month of benefits so families can stock up on food and supplies.
“The anxiety is real, we understand that. We not only appreciate it, we deeply respect it. But let me say unequivocally, we will get through this crisis as one New Jersey family. We will not be unscathed as we have already had a fatality," Murphy said. "And when we do, we will have learned many lessons and we will be stronger than ever before.”