Coronavirus update: N.J. furloughs prisoners, Murphy outlines reopening plan

After drawing criticism for being slow, New Jersey prisons have begun furloughing some who are most likely to suffer the worst of COVID-19.

An empty jail cell

Empty jail cell (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

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New Jersey added an additional 2,146 cases of coronavirus overnight, bringing the state’s total number of positive residents to 111,188.

Another 106 also died as a result of the disease, which means some 6,044 New Jerseyans have now died from COVID-19.

Gov. Murphy noted that the earlier start time of his daily briefing Monday may account for why those numbers are slightly lower than typical.

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Murphy announces recovery plan

Murphy on Monday announced his plan for how the Garden State can begin to reopen after seeing the country’s second-worst outbreak of COVID-19 infections.

The governor said officials would move as quickly as possible to return life to normal in New Jersey as long as it was safe.

“I want, by the way, nothing more than to see every Main Street up and down the state filled with shoppers and diners once again,” Murphy said. “We will move as quickly as we can, but as safely as we must.”

The plan to reopen would only kick in once the state saw a steady reduction in COVID-19 infections. A two-fold increase in testing and a massive contact tracing operation would also be necessary, Murphy said, as well as locations for people who test positive for coronavirus to isolate.

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Once public health was in hand, then the state would begin reopening its economy and planning for future surges of COVID-19 or any other outbreaks, he added.

The announcement came the same day that at least one Jersey Shore official — Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra — said he would begin relaxing some coronavirus restrictions in the resort town as early as Friday. It is unclear whether that would conflict with Murphy’s numerous executive orders.

More than 50 prisoners approved for release

New Jersey Department of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks has approved more than 50 people for furloughs, as the coronavirus outbreak bears down on the state’s prison system.

Murphy’s chief counsel Matt Platkin said Hicks had approved those furloughs through the weekend and was continuing to approve more each day on a rolling basis.

According to state data, some 460 DOC staff and 109 prisoners have been sickened with coronavirus. Twenty-four prisoners have died.

Platkin says the first people considered for furloughs were those 60 or older and who had underlying medical conditions that made them more susceptible to a severe case of COVID-19 while behind bars.

61% of New Jerseyans tell poll they someone with coronavirus

About six in 10 New Jerseyans say they personally know someone who has contracted the coronavirus, far more than the roughly one quarter of Americans who claim to know someone with the disease, according to a new poll.

The survey released Monday by the Monmouth University Polling Institute also found that New Jerseyans felt more impacted by the pandemic than the country at large.

Seventy-one percent of state residents said the outbreak has had a major impact on their lives, while 62% of all Americans felt that way, according to an earlier Monmouth poll. Twenty-three percent of New Jerseyans said the pandemic had a minor impact on them, and just 6% said it had no impact at all.

New Jersey has seen a coronavirus case count higher than any other state besides New York, and its northern counties have been particularly devastated by the spread of COVID-19.

“These results should come as no surprise as they confirm what we have been seeing from other sources,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “New Jersey has been harder hit than most of the country.”

The poll also found that people of color were more likely than white New Jerseyans to say they or a member of their family had been infected with coronavirus.

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