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schools reopen
COURTESY STATE OF NEW JERSEY Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at a Sept. 8 press briefing in Trenton.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey students and teachers began going back to school today, Sept. 8, either in-person at school or through at-home or childcare-virtual learning.

Montclair’s schools are set to start the new school year on Sept. 10 with all-remote learning. 

Of the 723 districts with state-approved plans, 388 will start with hybrid learning, 69 planned all in-person learning, 238 will do remote learning, and 28 will do some combination of plans, such as having one school open for in-person and one open on hybrid learning. The state returned 86 plans to districts for revisions, according to state officials at today’s debriefing. 

The reopening of businesses continues, with restaurants and movie theaters permitted to reopen on a limited basis on Friday, Sept. 4, 

State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said there were no compliance-related issues, such as restaurants and businesses not complying with executive orders, reported to state law enforcement over the weekend. 

Gov. Phil Murphy said the lack of “knucklehead” cases was a good sign: “And this gives us all some hope for the days ahead as we continue to battle this virus.” 

Residents are urged to continue with routines such as hand washing for 20 seconds, mask wearing, and social distancing that should have become habitual to New Jerseyans over the last six months. 

“We cannot let our guard down because this is a virus that spreads when we give it an opportunity,” Murphy said. 

Vaccines

Operation Warp Speed (OWS) aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, collectively known as countermeasures. 

The CDC has advised public health agencies to prepare for a vaccine by early November, however. 

Murphy acknowledged that early November was an aggressive timeline for having vaccines and therapeutics ready.  “I’ll be thrilled if they’re here by early November,” Murphy said of the vaccines. But he said it would probably take longer for a vaccine to be ready.

Murphy said pharmaceutical companies Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna are expected to release a joint statement today indicating that they are erring on the side of caution in developing and testing vaccines. Murphy said he appreciated their cautiousness. 

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, University Hospital in Newark, and Hackensack University Medical Center are among the testing sites for the Moderna vaccine. All three sites are currently recruiting adult volunteers for testing the vaccine. 

Today’s numbers

The number of daily new cases is down. As of today, Sept. 8, New Jersey health officials reported 284 new cases, compared to 478 new cases on Friday, Sept. 4, bringing the total to 194,667. 

The positivity rate and the transmission rate have both risen over the weekend. The positivity rate is now up to 1.83 percent, compared to 1.81 on Friday. The virus transmission rate has once again risen above 1, from 1.03 on Friday to 1.10, today. 

Officials also reported five new deaths, compared to seven on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 14,213. In addition, hospitals reported five new deaths yesterday, the same number reported on Sept. 4. The number of probable deaths is 1,783.

Hospitals decreased slightly over the weekend. Last night, hospitals reported 419 COVID-related patients, including 82 in critical care and 33 on ventilators. On Thursday night, hospitals reported 466 COVID-related patients, with 99 in critical care and 40 on ventilators.

Essex County health officials reported 1,870 deaths as of Sept. 8, up by three deaths from 1,867 on Sept. 4. Over the weekend 105 new cases were reported by Essex County, now totaling 20,339.

Montclair health officials have been reporting an increase in cases in recent weeks, particularly in long-term care facilities. 

Montclair has seen 33 total new cases since Aug. 27, following several weeks of new case numbers remaining flat. Since Sept. 3, 10 new cases have been identified in long-term care facilities, according to township officials. State officials had a record of seven cases being reported in Montclair Manor.

Today, Sept. 8, officials in Montclair reported five new cases and one additional death, bringing total numbers to 536 and 56 deaths. Officials said all five of the new cases have been connected to long-term care facilities.

Officials would not comment on the increase in cases beyond the long-term care cases.