All NJ schools will close starting Wednesday, Murphy orders
Gov. Phil Murphy made official Monday the announcement he's said for days was inevitable — starting Wednesday, all pre-kindergarten, K-12 schools and higher education institutions in the state will be closed because of the ongoing novel coronavirus threat.
Murphy had said over the weekend he was "99 percent sure" the announcement would come Monday, stressing the state was giving time for schools to work out plans for home instruction, and for meal delivery to students who get free or reduced-price meals. Communities have also been grappling with how to provide day care for students whose parents still need to work.
More than 400 school districts, of more than 600 in the state, had already closed or shifted to home instruction as of Friday.
The announcement comes as Murphy also announced severe restrictions on businesses — barring eat-in dining or drinking, and shuttering theaters, gyms, casinos, racetracks and other non-essential entertainment businesses. Those restrictions, in concert with identical ones in New York and Connecticut, go into effect Monday night at 8 p.m. and remain in effect until further notice. Gas stations, pharmacies and other businesses deemed essential will remain open, but gatherings of 50 or more will be barred.
Murphy and governors from neighboring states also said people should avoid any non-essential travel from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The governor's office hasn't said whether and to what extent retail could be affected, but several malls have closed either voluntarily or under orders from local officials.
Murphy also said Monday the National Guard would be mobilized and moved to "ready posture."
Another round of positive results announced during Sunday's state briefing brought the total number of known COVID-19 cases based on testing to just under 100 in NJ, with patients in 13 out of 21 counties. However, state-level counts have been changing quickly, sometimes lagging behind locally reported cases. In some cases, state-level counts have adjusted numbers for individual counties down, even as the state's overall count rises by the day.
Among districts in counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases that remained on regular schedules for Monday were Elizabeth public schools in Union County, and Lakewood public schools in Ocean County. Officials said they were reluctant to close schools because of the large number of students receiving services through the districts.