By ERIN ROLL
Child care centers can reopen, organized sports practices can resume, summer camps can plan for day campers and churches can open back up.
On Friday, May 29, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that daycare centers that have been closed due to the pandemic can reopen on June 15. Since March, only daycares which cared for children of essential workers have been open.
Organized sports practice can resume on June 22, and youth day camps can open beginning July 6.
The reopening of daycare centers is necessary, Murphy said, as parents prepare to go back to work.
“And it probably comes as a welcome relief to parents who did not know how they were going to juggle child care and summer care with their work responsibilities,” said Christine Norbut Beyer, the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families.
The Department of Children and Families (DFC) will be issuing specific guidance later today on what procedures and safeguards need to be in place, Beyer said. The DCF will also send inspectors to visit reopening daycares on June 12, to ensure that they are in compliance and to provide assistance.
Daycare centers are essential for all working families. Additionally, they help children develop needed social and emotional skills, Murphy said.
Summer camp can start enrolling children for day camps only. The state is still prohibiting sleepaway camps.
“Camp is a place where children develop many lasting memories, and for many teens, their first jobs,” he said.
Pertaining to sports, only outdoor activities will be permitted, and there will be no contact drills.
“We want you to have an active summer with your friends, playing the sports you love, but we want to protect your health,” Murphy said.
For houses of worship, Murphy said he anticipates being able to raise the limit on the number of people who can gather in indoor gatherings on June 12, which allow for churches to reopen.
“This has been a hard time for [houses of worship] for sure. Our faiths, after all, are supposed to bring people together. However, we don’t want any opening to have an adverse impact,” Murphy said, adding that if any house of worship feels uncomfortable with reopening, the state will work with them.
Murphy took a moment to address the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests in Minneapolis. A police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, ultimately killing him.
“It may seem half a country away but we’re all in this together. What we’re seeing in Minneapolis is painful. Almost too painful to watch,” Murphy said, “We’ve seen these images before. In New York, in Ferguson, in Baltimore, and many other cities both large and small.”
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver seconded Murphy’s remarks. “I think everyone in New Jersey has heartfelt condolences for the family of George Floyd,” she said.
State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said that for the past 11 weeks, he has been participating in a weekly prayer call with clergy of different faiths around the state. The prayers being offered at this week’s call were particularly heartbreaking, he said.
Police and clergy need to be meeting at barbecues, in church basements, and other such settings, and building up a strong bond of trust in good times, so that trust can be called upon during challenging times, Callahan said: “They’re not going to be meeting their clergy at yellow crime-scene tape.”
New Jersey will use $100 million in federal funding to establish a short-term rental assistance program for low and moderate-income families that have been out of work or had their wages lowered due to the pandemic.
Murphy emphasized that New Jersey’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures remains in effect.
Oliver said that the lowest-income families, including families that are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless, will be eligible for 12 months of aid. For other families whose employment and income have been affected by COVID-19, a lottery system will open up through the Department of Community Affairs website in July.
New Jersey reported 1,117 new cases on Friday, down from 1,261 new cases on Thursday, bringing the state total to 158,844.
The state also reported 131 new deaths, up from 66 on Thursday, bringing the state total to 11,531.
As of 10 p.m. Thursday, 2,707 people were in the hospital, down from 2,797 on Wednesday. There were 720 patients in critical care with 544 ventilators in use, compared to 740 critical care patients and 564 ventilators on Wednesday.
Hospitals admitted 183 new patients and discharged 231 patients, compared to 365 new patients and 287 discharges on Wednesday.
As of 9 a.m. Friday, Essex County reported 45 new cases, down from 81 new cases on Thursday, bringing the county total to 16,561. The county also reported 13 new deaths, down from 14 on Thursday, bringing the total to 1,649.
Montclair reported 419 cases as of Thursday, and the number of deaths remained at 49. Friday’s numbers have not yet been released.
Among the deaths was former East Orange Mayor Thomas Cooke, who lived with his family in Montclair early on in his life and who graduated from Montclair State University.