NEW JERSEY — For many New Jersey school districts, this week will mark the first day of class. 

While all have prepared — opting for in-person, remote or a hybrid of the two — new coronavirus cases are to be expected, state officials said Tuesday. 

“We have all the public health protocols and procedures in place to safeguard our children, our educators, staff and their families,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at his coronavirus press briefing from the George Washington Ballroom in Trenton Tuesday afternoon. “When there is a case of coronavirus that arises in one of our schools, and folks there will be, we have the procedures in place to guide district leaders and local health officials to mitigate that.”

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The governor said 388 schools will teach in a hybrid format, 69 in-person and 238 all-remote. Just one school in the Garden State is still awaiting approval on its plan. 

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He said that as of the briefing, there were no school outbreaks or instances where students needed to be quarantined.

Following the extended Labor Day weekend, Murphy said the impact on the pandemic of resuming indoor activities (education, dining, performance venues, movie theaters, etc.) won’t be known just yet.

“It’s going to be hard to tell until we monitor trends for the next couple weeks because as you know we just implemented the indoor dining and other entertainment allowances,” Murphy said. 

Anecdotally, he added, “we had very few reported cases of knucklehead behavior.”

In New Jersey, there were 284 newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19 (194,667 total) and five new deaths (14,213 total and 1,783 considered probable). The daily positivity rate was 1.83% as of Sept. 4 and the rate of transmission (Rt) slightly increased to 1.10. 

Outlining the hospital census, the health department reported 419 people hospitalized for the coronavirus, (227 confirmed), 82 patients in intensive or critical care and 33 people requiring ventilators.

Travel advisory, Sturgis and Latest on Vaccine

New Jersey’s 14-day quarantine travel advisory now applies to 35 states and territories. Delaware, Maryland and Ohio were re-added to the list Tuesday. West Virginia made its first appearance - qualifying as an “impacted state” over having a positive COVID-19 test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average."

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“We've had no major outbreaks either from the travel advisory,” State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. “We [conducted] two really good case investigations and contact tracing to identify an individual who had been to the Sturgis gathering, which I [believe] was a contact tracer who really nailed the questions and got the answers.”

According to multiple recent reports, 250,000 new coronavirus cases trace back to the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota in August. An IZA Institute of Labor Economics study indicates that it would amount to as many as 19% of all United States cases last month.

President Donald Trump has said a coronavirus vaccine may arrive before the end of 2020, potentially before Election Day. Asked about that timeline onTuesday, Murphy said, “I would be lying if I said that was not on the very aggressive side.” 

“Based on the timeframes for either therapeutics or vaccines that we've had with our the medical folks we talked to….I think we have been led to believe sort of year-end would be at least a wave to address vulnerable communities, frontline healthcare and other essential workers,” he added.

Toward the end of today’s press briefing, Murphy spoke out over the importance of another vaccine.

“We'd [also] like to just take the opportunity to stress the importance of recognizing that we're now also entering flu season and this is a reminder in the time to start thinking about getting the flu vaccine," he said. 

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