Murphy to meet with Trump at White House in the midst of the coronavirus crisis

Posted Apr 29, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy is scheduled to visit the White House on Thursday morning to meet with President Donald Trump as New Jersey seeks federal help to cope with the health and economic crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic governor tweeted Wednesday night he plans to discuss expanding COVID-19 testing and securing federal financial aid for states.

“We will work together to defeat this virus and ensure that New Jersey emerges from this crisis stronger than ever,” Murphy wrote.

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Covanta Says It Has Stopped Accepting Waste That Caused a ‘Purple Plume’ Over Newark

JON HURDLE | APRIL 30, 2020 

NJ Spotlight

Covanta confirmed that a “purple plume” was caused by iodine in manufacturing waste.

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A waste management company rejected a new attack from residents of Newark’s Ironbound district who say their health is threatened by air pollution from a trash incinerator, and that the state Department of Environmental Protection isn’t doing enough to stop it.

Advocates for the residents wrote to DEP and the Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday, complaining that the Essex County Resource Recovery Facility, operated by Covanta, emitted a “purple plume” on April 7. They claimed the incident was the latest of “hundreds” of air-permit violations by the plant in recent years.

Covanta acknowledged the existence of the plume from its smokestack for about 30 minutes on April 7, and confirmed that it was caused by iodine in the waste from an unnamed manufacturing company, but not from any medical waste that critics suspected. It said the resulting presence of the chemical in air around the incinerator was well below the level at which it could be a respiratory irritant.

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Library wants residents to document their coronavirus experience for its archives

Posted Apr 28, 2020

The Newark Public Library has a message for the city residents: Tell us -- and show us -- what you’re feeling.

Archivists want words, photos, videos or drawings that express what residents are going through as the library builds a collection to go on display when the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The photo above is a good example: Shoppers try to stand six feet apart, practicing social distancing, as they wait in line to enter Seabra’s Market in Newark’s Ironbound section.

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Murphy Gives Local Officials Option to Push Back Property-Tax Deadline

JOHN REITMEYER | APRIL 29, 2020 

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy holding his coronavirus briefing in Trenton

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An executive order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy just days before May 1 property-tax payments are due is enabling local officials to push back the payment deadline by a full month.

Murphy’s 11th-hour executive order doesn’t automatically extend the May 1 payment deadline, but instead gives New Jersey’s municipalities the option of lengthening a statutory grace period to help taxpayers struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order was announced during a media briefing on the pandemic held in Trenton on Tuesday. It drew immediate praise, including from officials who represent the state’s many cities and towns, some of which are facing their own financial hardships amid the still-unfolding pandemic.

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New Jersey Governor Offers Timeline to Begin Reopening Within Weeks

Gov. Philip D. Murphy on Monday sketched out benchmarks New Jersey will have to reach before the coronavirus lockdown can be lifted, even as he warned of a financial “Armageddon” that could leave the state unable to pay its teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The stay-at-home order will remain fully in place until further notice, but the governor said he expected the timeline for reopening to be measured in weeks, not months.

He also said that schools might reopen before the end of June. “There is a chance that we could get back in school,” he said in an interview Monday morning on CNBC.

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NJ Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments Over Newark’s Civilian Complaint Review Board

Arguments in Newark's Civilian Complaint Review Board proceedings were made Monday. Opponents of the board argue it allows for political interference in police departments.
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NEWARK, NJ — New Jersey’s highest court held remote proceedings on Monday for Newark Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No.12’s bid to limit the scope of the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, an oversight body created in response to a 2014 federal report showing that Newark Police Department had violated citizens’ rights. 

In June 2019, an appellate court restored subpoena power back to the Civilian Complaint Review Board after the FOP won an initial lower court lawsuit that claimed the entity disrupted the police department’s internal affairs and violated the Attorney General’s guidelines. 

The Civilian Complaint Review Board was officially formed in 2016, the same year the city entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. The DoJ's investigation also resulted in the appointment of a federal monitor to help undo the damage the wrought by unconstitutional policing internal failure to enforce officer accountability. 

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A Time to Mourn: Grieving Differently During the Pandemic

SHEILA NOONAN | APRIL 28, 2020 

NJ Spotlight

Technology is central to the way many people now grieve for their loved ones.

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The COVID-19 quarantine has not only changed the way New Jerseyans live. It has significantly altered how our society has memorialized the deceased since the late 1800s, when, for a variety of reasons, customary home-based funerals gave way to services managed by undertakers. Under Gov. Phil Murphy’s March 21 executive order, public gatherings are limited to 10 people, including viewings, wakes, funeral services, celebrations of life and repasts. Other family members and friends watch from their homes through video livestreams.

“Many funeral directors enter the profession because we’re caring people who want to serve the community at the time of death,” said George R. Kelder Jr., CEO and executive director of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association, which represents 600 funeral businesses and 1,000 funeral directors in the state. “Now, instead of face-to-face conversations with families, arrangements are often being made by telephone, Skype or text — more transactional discussions than the comforting ones we want to provide. It’s outside the norm of how we typically operate.”

Kelder empathizes with the difficulty families have when choosing who attends a service and who stays home. “We’re noticing more cooperation with the numerical limitations, but families are forced to make very emotional mathematical decisions,” he said.

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How Small Businesses in NJ Go from Survival Mode to Recovery Mode

JOHN REITMEYER | APRIL 27, 2020

NJ Spotlight

Small businesses in NJ have struggled to get aid from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

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The adoption of a new federal aid package with billions of dollars in new funding for small businesses comes just as officials in New Jersey are beginning to give more attention to what the state’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will look like.

The new aid package signed into law by President Donald Trump includes at least $250 billion for small businesses, as well as significant funding for hospitals and testing initiatives that are considered crucial for addressing both public health and economic recovery goals.

But its enactment comes even as major questions remain about how an earlier round of federal funding was distributed to businesses. They include whether some of the hardest-hit states, including New Jersey, were shorted at the expense of others. Meanwhile, New Jersey government itself is still reeling and in need of direct aid from the federal government, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.

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Even on coronavirus lockdown, school tries to meet students’ special needs for normalcy

Posted Apr 26, 2020

Owen Castro didn’t hesitate when asked if he missed face-to-face classes at the Phoenix Center, a state-certified, privately run school in Nutley that provides academic instruction and other services to students with special needs.

“My teachers, my friends, everything,” said Owen, who’s 13 and lives in Fair Lawn.

But asked whether he preferred going to school, like he did before the coronavirus outbreak, or staying at home, he was less decisive.

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Next Up: Major Contact-Tracing Program to Keep the Virus in Check?

IAN T. SHEARN | APRIL 27, 2020 

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy, who says that a “responsible reopening” is still a long way off for New Jersey, yet today is expected to outline the broad parameters of such a plan.

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Now that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations appears to be in decline, New Jersey officials are starting to game-plan how to ease restrictions and start reopening commerce. Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to outline the broad parameters of a plan for that today.

Until a vaccine is developed, however, the strategy has been reduced to a mantra: test, trace, isolate. Health experts believe that is the only way to keep the virus boxed in and prevent a second surge.

As testing for the coronavirus increases, the effort to trace the contacts of those who have tested positive is seen by public health experts as the next vital step in trying to control the pandemic and move beyond the stay-at-home reality of now. An army of pandemic detectives will have to be recruited, trained and deployed in short order.

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