Gov. Murphy: Long-term statewide school closures ‘inevitable’ amid coronavirus outbreak

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Gov. Phil Murphy says that long-term statewide school closures are “inevitable” as New Jersey continues to deal with an outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19.

The governor said that the state is working with school districts around the state to prepare for statewide closures, though he stopped short of taking that step. He said it's a matter of when, not if, they close. State Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet said some 354 districts, or roughly half, in the state have closed already.

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Murphy said that while a statewide closure is inevitable, he says that it needs to be done responsibly. He said that not every student home access to items like computers or the internet, so accommodations need to be made for these types of students if virtual classrooms are to be a reality for the time being. The governor said that he was not sure how long schools would have to remain closed.

“We must take into account the significant educational and socioeconomic impacts which occur when schools are closed for extended periods. We need to ensure solutions to mitigate these impacts a statewide closure would have before such a declaration,” the governor said.

Murphy made several other announcements about how the state is preparing for the possibility of long-term disruption to general life in the state.

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All residents who have their driver’s license, auto registration or vehicle inspection due for renewal by May 31 will receive an automatic two-month extension. Murphy also wrote to the federal government to request a nationwide extension of the REAL ID deadline.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities stated that utility shut-off orders will be suspended for the time being. This includes gas, electric and water.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services has been in contact with the federal government to seek a waiver that would allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to have an additional 1 ½ months’ worth of benefits. The governor said that this would be so that families can stock up on food and other supplies.

Murphy also stated that a shipment of medical supplies will be arriving in New Jersey for public-health responders. He said that this will include “more than 84,000 N95 respirators, 200,000 surgical masks, 38,000 face shields, and other needed items.”

Officials announced 21 new “presumptive positive” cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, bringing the total number of cases to 50 statewide. Officials also said that are currently 80 people undergoing testing to confirm for the virus.

Murphy continued to urge all New Jerseyans to practice “common sense” personal hygiene practices, including washing hands often with soap and warm water and covering up coughs and sneezes. Anyone who is feeling ill should avoid going out into public. The governor also urged everyone to check on their elderly neighbors and loved ones to make sure that they have everything that they need.

“We need to take this public health emergency on as one New Jersey family. If we all stay focused – if we all do our parts – we can better protect our families and our state, and be a leader in winning the fight against the coronavirus,” Murphy said.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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