Coronavirus update: N.J. sets reopening dates for child care, sports and more

Also Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a $100 million fund for rental assistance and said religious services could resume by June 12.

day care children walking on street

Children from a day care walking together. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Updated at 3:53 p.m.

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New Jersey reported 1,117 new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the state’s total to 158,844.

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Another 131 people died of complications from COVID-19. The state has now lost 11,531 residents to the pandemic.

Child care centers, sports, day camps

Child care centers can reopen their doors to all children starting June 15 under an executive order Gov. Phil Murphy said he would sign Friday.

On June 22, outdoor organized sports that are “non-contact” can resume, including at the high school and college levels. Murphy singled out baseball, softball and soccer as sports that fall into that category but did not provide a comprehensive list of which others would be allowed.

And on July 6, youth day camps, including summer recreation programs run by municipalities, can restart.

“We want our children to be able to enjoy their summer with friends participating in activities that create life-long memories,” Murphy said, adding that the state will issue health and safety standards to clarify what’s allowed.

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Indoor religious services

Murphy also said Friday that he would raise the limit on indoor gatherings so that religious services can resume “as long as our health metrics continue to trend in the right direction.”

He said he anticipates that change will be in place by June 12. The current limit on indoor gatherings is 10.

The Democratic governor has come under increasing pressure to allow such services. Religious leaders have resisted his coronavirus restrictions with lawsuits, the threat of more lawsuits and open defiance.

Horse racing back on track

Horse racing resumed in New Jersey on Friday, and Murphy said the first big competition of the year could happen next weekend.

“At this time, we will not — and I repeat, we will not — be able to allow fans back into our racetrack grandstands,” he said. “But online gaming remains open and capable of taking your wagers.”

$100 million for rent assistance

Families struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic will soon be able to tap a $100 million state relief fund, officials said Friday, with the goal of sending the first checks to landlords “later this summer.”

Families experiencing homelessness or on the verge of losing their homes will be prioritized, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said. She said those families could receive up to 12 months of assistance.

Others can enter an online lottery due to open in July for up to six months of assistance, with priority given to households who earn less than 80% of the area median income and can demonstrate a loss of income caused by the pandemic.

Oliver said a state website will launch on June 15 with more information.

Money for the program is coming “primarily” from federal CARES Act funding, Murphy said.

Murphy fires top health official

The Murphy administration has fired the Health Department official who has been overseeing emergency preparedness during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the New Jersey Globe, which first reported the news, the termination of assistant commissioner Christopher Neuwirth may have been related to his simultaneous work for an emergency management consulting firm.

Neuwirth, who appeared alongside Murphy at several of the governor’s earlier coronavirus press briefings, reportedly wrote on Facebook that he was being “scapegoated.”

Murphy said Friday he had “no comment” on the situation, but added that when it comes to state employees: “It’s par for the course that you’re not supposed to have another source of income. That’s as a general matter.”

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