N.J. coronavirus: Cases rise in Ocean County; state budget inches closer to law

The beach in Mantoloking, N.J., Ocean County. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

The beach in Mantoloking, N.J., Ocean County. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

New Jersey reported another 612 cases of coronavirus on Friday, bringing the state’s cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 202,100 infections.

Another seven people died of complications from COVID-19, which means there have now been 14,306 confirmed deaths and 1,791 probable deaths from the pandemic in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy also renewed the state’s public health emergency, which expires unless it is re-upped every 30 days.

Cases rise in a handful of counties

State health officials reported slight upticks in coronavirus infections in a few New Jersey counties, though the increases did not appear to follow a regional pattern.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Monmouth, Gloucester, Middlesex, and Bergen Counties were all seeing spikes in infections.

Ocean County was also seeing a surge in new infections, she said, with between 100 and 150 new cases per day and more than half of those in Lakewood.

“We have sent 6,000 test kits to enable increased testing. We have also dispatched additional contact tracers, and we will be sending more next week,” Persichilli said.

Students in off-campus housing at Rowan University contributed to higher numbers in Gloucester County, she added.

State budget inches closer to law

Gov. Murphy says he will sign the nine-month, $32.7 billion state budget passed by lawmakers as soon as next week.

Murphy and lawmakers reached a deal on the budget in recent days, so it was all but assured that he would sign it into law. But Murphy’s pledge to sign the bill now guarantees that the state will hike taxes on millionaires and businesses, and borrow $4.5 billion to pay for its coronavirus recovery.

“I will break with tradition and say that I will be signing the budget as is,” Murphy said Friday during his regular coronavirus briefing. Typically governors use their line-item veto power to remove some spending from the budget bill.

Some of Murphy’s other budget proposals — such as a new “baby bonds” initiative, a tax hike on cigarettes, and an increase in gun permit fees — did not make it into the final version.

Murphy on Breonna Taylor: ‘Justice was not properly served’

Murphy said he understands the anger expressed in the streets over the decision not to charge any Louisville police officers in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.

That decision has sparked protests across the country, including in New Jersey.

“It is clear to me from the outside looking in that justice was not properly served here. Hard to say otherwise,” he said.

Taylor was shot after police executed a no-knock warrant on her home and her boyfriend fired at them believing they were intruders. The officers were seeking Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, who was not at the apartment.

The shooting of Breonna Taylor and other fatal police shootings of Black people ignited a wave of protests this summer as well as calls to defund the police.

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