What’s the official NJ vaccination timeline? Depends on who’s talking, Murphy or Persichilli

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | FEBRUARY 22, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Dec. 15, 2020 , health commissioner Judy Persichilli and Gov. Phil Murphy applauded as the first COVID-19 vaccination was administered in New Jersey to emergency room nurse Maritza Beniquez, University Hospital, Newark.

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For months, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has highlighted the state’s goal of vaccinating 4.7 million people against COVID-19 within six months, something he said can be done by this summer. By Memorial Day, or by the Fourth of July, things will “look much better,” Murphy predicts.

But state health commissioner Judy Persichilli, who often appears next to the governor during their media briefings, seems to have a different timeline. She talks about immunizing 4.7 million people within six months of when there is an adequate supply of the vaccine, something that doesn’t yet exist. When briefing lawmakers in October, Persichilli indicated it could take until fall to reach this 4.7 million goal — which is 70% of those eligible, a level needed to control the spread of the virus.

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N.J. residents facing foreclosure would get help under bill now on Murphy’s desk

Posted Feb 20, 2021

A bill that would create a fund to assist New Jersey residents facing foreclosure is headed to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk after it passed the state Senate Friday.

The measure, S3244, would create the New Jersey Foreclosure Prevention Act, which allows the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to purchase properties facing foreclosures to help residents in retaining control of their homes. It would also allow the agency to work with homeowners for a more affordable mortgage.

New Jersey has consistently ranked the highest in the nation for foreclosures, and was 4th highest in the nation for mortgage delinquencies in July. A 2018 report conducted by the state’s judiciary found New Jersey averaged 25,000 foreclosure filings in 2006 before shooting up to 65,000 per year in 2009.

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$100M fund for Black and Latinx business owners expands to 7 more N.J. cities

Posted Feb 19, 2021

Seven more mayors across New Jersey are on board to help create a $100 million philanthropic fund to support Black and Latinx business owners and real estate developers.

The idea first started in Newark last year in September. Now, mayors from Orange, East Orange, Paterson, Camden, Trenton, Irvington and Atlantic City are helping to call on the private sector to contribute to the fund and assist their residents too.

The mayors on Wednesday also called on Gov. Phil Murphy for his support to expand the program across the state, which has one of the worst wealth gaps in the nation.

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N.J. asks judge to force gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson to hand over documents on how it markets firearms

Posted Feb 18, 2021

New Jersey is asking a judge to force Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. to hand over internal documents, the latest twist in an ongoing legal fight over how the gun manufacturer advertises to residents.

The state first demanded marketing information in October. The Massachusetts-based company sued soon after, arguing that it wasn’t obligated to provide anything.

The gun manufacturer “claims that it is above the law — that it can deceive consumers and potential consumers of its products without consequence,” the state attorney general’s office wrote in court documents filed Friday.

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Why Texas-sized power outages not likely to devastate New Jersey

TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | FEBRUARY 19, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Feb. 18, 2021: Oncor crews work to restore power to homes in Euless, Texas.

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The sweeping power outages that left millions of Texans shivering without heat due to extreme winter weather have some wondering if those utility disruptions could happen here in New Jersey.

They already have — at least to a lesser extent. And the changes ordered up after severe winter weather disrupted the power grid here are supposed to prevent what happened in Texas from happening in the Garden State.

In January 2014, PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest grid operator lost 22% of its power load during a polar vortex that froze coal supplies and idled old natural-gas plants typically called on to provide reserve power.

But by convincing industrial customers to curtail demand for electricity, the grid operator averted the kind of widespread outages that occurred this week in Texas. PJM also adopted tough new capacity rules to ensure power suppliers could function in extreme cold or suffer penalties for not living up to commitments.

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Senate abandons effort on cannabis cleanup legislation

02/17/2021

Politico

State Sen. Nick Scutari speaks to reporters. 

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The state Senate is abandoning efforts to pass clean-up legislation that would resolve how New Jersey would penalize underage possession of cannabis, setting up a scenario in which Gov. Phil Murphy will be forced to either sign or veto legislation he's said would legalize the drug for children.

“We couldn’t get 21 votes on any bill other than the bills that are on his desk,” Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who's led cannabis legalization efforts in the Legislature, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Scutari chairs, had been scheduled to hold a vote on the latest clean-up bill at 3 p.m. Wednesday. That meeting was ultimately canceled.

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NJ officials expect COVID-19 vaccine supplies to increase in late spring, widespread vaccinations by summer

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | FEBRUARY 18, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Meadowlands COVID-19 vaccination mega-site

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Despite growing public anxiety over access to the COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey — a situation fueled in part by limited supply — state officials said immunizations will be widely available by this summer, even if most of the necessary doses arrive later than first anticipated.

“I don’t think the public expectation in New Jersey is too high,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday, noting that vaccine shipments are expected to increase in late spring to better meet demand. New Jerseyans have expressed widespread frustration for weeks over the limited vaccination appointments available statewide and with the complex, decentralized registration and scheduling systems that have left many eligible people unable to get a shot.

Murphy’s comments came the day after reports that Johnson & Johnson, the New Jersey-based drug company expected to receive federal emergency authorization for its vaccine later this month, may have fewer doses available initially than anticipated and take longer to produce the larger supplies needed to reach millions of additional Americans. New Jersey and other states have hoped to use the Johnson & Johnson serum — which requires only one dose unlike the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now approved — to reach underserved and vulnerable populations.

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Trump Era in Atlantic City Will End With 3,000 Sticks of Dynamite

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Feb. 17, 2021

Trump Plaza was the first of three casinos Donald J. Trump owned in Atlantic City before they eventually went bankrupt.Credit...

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It will not be the biggest or the best implosion ever.

An auction for the rights to detonate the dynamite to begin the implosion of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., fizzled.

Front-row seats to view Wednesday morning’s planned spectacle were sold on the cheap. Onlookers in cars will be charged $10 and herded into a lot most recently used as a pandemic-era food distribution site.

Still, the demolition will mark the symbolic finale of the former president’s casino empire in the seaside resort city.

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New Biden administration action could boost Gateway tunnel that’s critical to N.J.

Posted Feb 16, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration on Monday reversed a policy by former President Donald Trump’s administration and made it easier for New Jersey and New York to fund their share of the Gateway Tunnel project.

In one of the clearest signs that President Joe Biden would reverse his predecessor’s antipathy to the new train tunnel under the Hudson River, the FTA said it would allow states to use U.S. government loans to cover their share of a project, making it eligible for federal funding.

“The Trump Administration pulled this ridiculous policy out of thin air in order to delay and derail the Gateway Project,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez said.

New Jersey and New York had planned on using loans under existing transportation programs, which they would have to pay back, as their 50% share of Gateway. The new tunnel would allow the existing Hudson River tubes to be closed to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

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Newark’s next public safety director has spent years working on reforms, building community trust

Posted Feb 16, 2021

The next Newark public safety director wants a hallmark of his new position to be building trust among the community.

And it won’t be much of a shift for Brian O’Hara, currently Newark’s deputy police chief, when he takes the helm of the city’s police and fire divisions, as well as the office of emergency management, on April 1. That’s because he’s been in charge of community engagement since about 2017 for the police division’s consent decree reforms.

“The foundation of policing and public safety is trust,” said O’Hara on Tuesday in Newark City Hall. “We’re going to work night and day to ensure that the residents of this community know that we have their backs and we want them to trust that through all the members of the department of public safety.”

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