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The Motor Vehicle Commission opened up after a three-month closure with long lines and frustrated customers.
Courtesy Tomwsulcer/wikimedia.

BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news 

After three months of pent-up demand, the Motor Vehicle Commission opened up on Tuesday, July 7, with customers forced to wait in long lines, some for up to eight hours.

“None of us are happy that things have gone like this,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

To ensure that the MVC does not go understaffed, Murphy exempted agency personnel from work furloughs, and extended expiration dates for licenses and registrations. 

“We share the frustration of our customers and hear the complaints loud and clear. Our employees are working hard in a difficult climate to keep up with demand,’’ MVC chief administrator Sue Fulton said. “The furlough exemptions will support expanded staff starting next Monday.’’

On Tuesday, the MVC processed 7,824 new registrations and licenses, 15 percent more than an average day in the first quarter of 2020, before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Wednesday’s numbers were even higher, at 8,607 new registrations and licenses. Fulton cautioned that “new registrations and licenses” does not cover all transactions.

Usually closed Mondays in July, licensing and vehicle centers will now be open on Mondays for the month. Licenses, registrations, inspections stickers, and temporary tags were also further extended to give customers more time to renew. Documents expiring between March 13 and May 31 have been extended to Sept. 30; those expiring June 1 to Aug. 31 have been extended to Dec. 31. Commercial driver licenses (CDLs) were previously extended to Sept. 30.

Depending on residents’ business with the MVC, agencies are now split, with 23 offering licensing only and 16 offering vehicle services only. Montclair residents can head to Wayne or Newark for licensing and to East Orange for vehicle services. But construction in the Wayne Licensing Center is creating unusual traffic, and residents are urged to go to Oakland, Paterson, or Lodi instead for license transactions. 

In addition to furlough exemptions and expiration extensions, the MVC is taking other measures to manage the high demand:

  1. Based on overnight capacity assessment, the MVC will establish a number of total customers each agency can serve the following day. Tickets will be given out up to that number, and remaining customers will be asked to return another day
  2. New drivers will be given preference at licensing centers. When staff go out to distribute tickets, the first tickets will be given to those who have completed requirements for a new permit or license. Already-licensed drivers (who will be able to drive under the extension) will be served after all new drivers have been served.
  3. As an additional safety measure, individuals will not be allowed to queue up on MVC property after capacity is reached until the next morning at 7 a.m.

 The agency will be closed this Saturday, July 11.

Another method for reducing crowds, Fulton said, was that transactions that can be completed online must be done so as part of a new MVC policy. 

GET TESTED

Testing for COVID-19 is recommended for everyone, whether feeling symptoms or not, but especially those who have traveled from “hot spot” states or have been in situations where social distancing was impossible such as large crowds. 

Residents are encouraged to get tested next week.
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“You could have COVID-19 and not even know it.” said Gov. Murphy.

A negative test result from a swab and spit test is a snapshot in time, and doesn’t mean you should not be cautious: it can take three to five days from exposure to COVID-19 before a test will show a positive result.

These tests are widely available at local pharmacies now. 

An antibody test is a blood test to detect if you may have been exposed in the past. But a positive test does not mean you may have immunity to the virus, officials warn.

The medical staff will determine if you can be tested for both the virus and antibodies.

Free and nearby COVID-19 and antibody testing sites coming up this week include:

  • Monday, July 13, and Tuesday, July 14, from 12 – 7 p.m. at the Wally Choice Community Center, Glenfield Park, 49 Maple Ave. Pre-registration is requested, but not necessary.
  • Tuesday, July 14, 4-6  p.m., at James Caldwell High School, 265 Westville Ave., West Caldwell 
  • Thursday, July 16, 4-6  p.m., Glen Ridge Country Club, 555 Ridgewood Ave., Glen Ridge
  • Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Essex County Weequahic Park Testing Site (Nasal Swab Test only), Drive-through only

Residents taking the COVID-19 saliva test should not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum for 30 minutes prior to arrival.

Test results are taking longer to process, up to five to seven days.

THE NUMBERS

New Jersey officials reported 367 new cases today, July 10, up from the 335 reported on Wednesday. The state total of COVID-confirmed cases as of Tuesday was 174,628.

The number of new deaths reported today is 31, down from the 53 reported on Wednesday. The state death toll as of Friday is 15,479 with 13,532 deaths confirmed to be caused by COVID-19 and 1,947 probable deaths from the virus. 

Officials noted that the numbers do not reflect the actual dates of death, only when they were reported as confirmed COVID deaths.

After reporting rising positivity rates at 3.23 percent on tests conducted July 4, today state officials reported a 2.3 percent rate for tests conducted on July 6.

The rate of transmission has also dipped slightly, to 0.98 infections transmitted per person.

Hospitals saw a decrease in the numbers of patients Thursday night, at 904, compared to the 935 on Tuesday night. The number of patients in intensive care was 164, also down from the 175 reported on Tuesday night, with 94 patients on ventilators, compared to Tuesday’s numbers of 142.

Essex County reported 29 new cases and now totaling 18,972 total cases. The county reported 11 more deaths Friday, for a to-date total of 1,805. 

Montclair’s Health Department has reported 16 new cases since July 1, bringing the township’s total to 461 as of Thursday. The township announced an additional death on Tuesday; the total number of Montclair residents who have not survived the illness is now 53.