Health department’s predictive modeling shows NJ about to turn COVID-19 corner

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | JANUARY 21, 2021

NJ Spotlight News

New COVID-19 diagnoses and hospitalizations could peak within days in New Jersey before beginning a gradual, months-long decline, according to state predictive modeling that also indicates 70% of eligible residents could be immunized by June 1, allowing for significant community protection against the pandemic.

State health officials were quick to explain that the immunization timeline is heavily dependent on federal supply of vaccines and the June 1 target assumes that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson serum not yet approved by federal regulators is available in March. Until then, the vaccine rollout will have limited impact on infection trends, the model notes.

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New Jersey will likely see another mostly mail primary

By Nikita BiryukovJanuary 20 2021

New Jersey Globe

New Jersey will likely see the return of mostly mail elections in the spring and summer as the state continues to grapple with the pandemic.

The state last began to administer vaccines that, so far, continue to be in short supply. Before taking office, President Joe Biden said he planned to invoke the Defense Production Act to boost the nation’s vaccine production.

Officials aim to have vaccinated 70% of residents, a figure they say will be enough to achieve herd immunity and begin a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, by Memorial Day. It’s not yet clear how increased vaccine production will affect that timeline, but health officials have identified supply shortages as the current bottleneck in the state’s vaccination strategy.

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Auction for Chance to Implode Trump Plaza Casino Is Canceled

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jan. 19, 2021

Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, center, once one of Atlantic City, N.J.’s premier destinations, is being demolished. Credit...

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The auction was promoting a “once in a lifetime” experience in Atlantic City, N.J., that would raise money for a youth charity: the right to push a button to implode the vacant Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.

But the auction, which had drawn a high bid of $175,000, was canceled after objection from the building’s owner, a subsidiary controlled by a company run by Carl C. Icahn, a billionaire investor who has supported President Trump, the auction house overseeing the bidding announced on Tuesday.

The proceeds would have gone to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.

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N.J. sues Trump 9 more times as his presidency ends

Posted Jan 19, 2021

Just a day before the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, New Jersey announced a flurry of new environmental lawsuits to counter last-minute policy changes.

The state has filed nine complaints just since Friday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other offices, officials said.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to reverse many of Trump’s environmental rollbacks. But state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal previously told NJ Advance Media that he couldn’t count on Biden acting quickly since the rule-making process was often laborious.

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New president, new plans. What Biden means for NJ

NJ SPOTLIGHT NEWS | JANUARY 20, 2021 

Jan. 19, 2021: President-elect Joe Biden speaks at the Major Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center in New Castle, Delaware.

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When he becomes president Wednesday, Joseph Biden is expected to make immediate changes in policy areas upended by President Trump — first through executive orders, then through an aggressive push with a Congress controlled by Democrats.

Up first, as Biden has promised, is an overhaul in the nation’s response to COVID-19 and its rollout of the needed vaccines. Then a return to work combating climate change. Beyond that, a new Biden administration is expected to have broad impact on life in New Jersey. From finances to climate to COVID-19, NJ Spotlight News looks at key areas where Biden is said to be making changes.

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COVID-19 vaccines: How NJ tries to juggle supply and demand

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | JANUARY 19, 2021

NJ Spotlight News

Jan. 15, 2021: Linda Leeman gets vaccinated at the Edison Vaccination Facility.

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In New Jersey, COVID-19 vaccines are now available at more than 160 locations — including hospitals, pharmacies, community health centers and government-run clinics — and four of the state’s planned six mega-sites are now immunizing eligible individuals.

But six weeks after the first New Jersey resident got her initial dose, the statewide operation continues to run at far less than full speed. Concerns include public confusion, a complex sign-up system, an initial workforce shortage in some places, and perhaps the biggest hurdle of all, not enough vaccines to meet the demand.

“We’ve got plenty of people (to administer vaccines), it’s not an issue” at the Gloucester County mega-site, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a former county freeholder, told NJ Spotlight News last week. “We just need the vaccine,” he said. “We’ve really got to step it up now.”

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Fearing inside attack, FBI vetting Guard troops in D.C.

WASHINGTON — U.S. defense officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event.

The massive undertaking reflects the extraordinary security concerns that have gripped Washington following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. And it underscores fears that some of the very people assigned to protect the city over the next several days could present a threat to the incoming president and other VIPs in attendance.

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The new bridge: At last, a portal to progress | Editorial

Posted Jan 18, 2021

We interrupt this tawdry news cycle for a hallelujah moment:

They have finally secured the funds needed to replace that swiveling, creaking disaster from the Taft Administration known as the Portal Bridge, the 110-year-old old rail link that is neither portal nor bridge when it gets stuck in the open position – which, as 200,000 daily riders on NJ Transit know, happens often enough to make their Manhattan commute a soul-crushing experience.

The swing-style contraption spanning the Hackensack River will be replaced with a fixed, high-level, $1.8 billion span, and NJ Transit will soon solicit bids for what should be a 5-year construction. It will convert a classic choke point into a modern link that will keep the Northeast Corridor — and the regional economy —  humming faster than 1910 bridge technology had allowed.

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Op-Ed: Lessons from Newark’s aggressive replacement of lead service lines

RAS J. BARAKA | JANUARY 18, 2021

NJ Spotlight News

Ras J. Baraka

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The first major changes to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule, which are designed to reduce lead traces in drinking water, were announced before Christmas, to give cities plagued by high lead levels some guidelines and goals.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new rules were a top priority to “accelerate reductions of lead in drinking water to better protect our children and communities.”

Acceleration is the operative word. This problem, like many health issues, disproportionately affects Black and brown people in older homes in cities across America, but lead is found in drinking water indiscriminately, in suburbs and rural communities alike.

Among the new rules is the gradual removal of lead service lines that connect individual homes and buildings to the water mains, giving municipalities a 33-year window for full replacement.

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Smokers in N.J. Are Eligible for Vaccine. No Proof Needed.

Tracey Tully and 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jan. 15, 2021

A vaccination clinic in Teaneck, N.J., run by Holy Name Medical Center, has the ability to administer 3,000 doses a day. But it needs more vaccine.

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Faced with soaring rates of coronavirus infection and more doses of vaccine in freezers than in arms, New Jersey officials made a calculated choice.

They opened the floodgates of vaccine eligibility on Thursday to about 4.5 million additional residents: those 65 and older and younger people with underlying health problems, including cancer, heart conditions and diabetes — diseases that can lead to severe complications from Covid-19.

As part of the expansion, New Jersey also became only the second state in the country to open vaccinations to another high-risk group — smokers. As is true for all Covid-19 vaccinations in New Jersey, no documentation of an underlying health condition is required.

The announcement came a day after the Trump administration told states to expand eligibility and to quickly use existing vaccine or risk losing future allocations.

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