N.J. coronavirus recovery: Murphy says no deals for Liberty State Park

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wears a mask during his daily coronavirus news conference in Trenton, N.J. (Chris Pedota/The Record via AP, Pool)

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On Wednesday, New Jersey reported an additional 423 positive tests for COVID-19. The total number of positive cases now stands at 171,928. An additional 45 deaths were reported, raising the toll to 13,224 confirmed deaths. There are also 1,854 probable deaths.

Despite language, Murphy says no private development at Liberty State Park

On Tuesday, Gov. Murphy signed a $7.6 billion three-month spending plan passed by the legislature that allows the Department of Environmental Protection to solicit bids from companies that want to do business in state parks.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg decried the move as a “sneaky, backdoor” way to allow Liberty National Golf Course owner Paul Fireman to expand his private course into the state park. He has been trying to do this for years.

The Friend of Liberty State Park announced on their Facebook page that including the privatization language was “a sneak attack ignoring 44 years of overwhelming privatization opposition” of the park where you can catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

In his briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Murphy brushed off the controversy, even though he could have removed the language with his line-item veto.

“My administration did not and does not intend to use this language to pursue a solicitation for Liberty State Park,” Murphy said.

He confirmed that the language was put in by the legislature and is not specific to any particular park, and noted that the plan was done “very quickly.”

“Liberty State Park, like any other state park, is a treasure in our state and it belongs to every family,” said Murphy.

Benefits extended for unemployed workers

Starting this week, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development is extending unemployment benefits for 20 weeks. The extension adds on to 26 weeks of state unemployment and 13 weeks of federal benefits from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, for a total of 59 weeks of help.

The extension is possible because New Jersey’s unemployment rate was 15.2% in May, meeting federal standards.

Workers already receiving benefits do not need to reapply for the extension. They will be enrolled automatically.

Independent contractors and self-employed workers will max out at 46 weeks of benefits.

Minor League Baseball 2020 season officially canceled

On Tuesday, the general manager of the Trenton Thunder and other teams were given notice that the 2020 season of Minor League Baseball is officially canceled. Major League Baseball determined that they would not assign players to minor league teams, effectively ending the season.

New Jersey boasts five professional baseball teams, two of which are affiliated with Minor League Baseball: the Trenton Thunder and the Lakewood BlueClaws.

Trenton Thunder, an affiliate of the New York Yankees, plan to open the 2021 season next April, but will host other activities this summer, including a high school tournament and movie nights. Tickets for any 2020 season game can be exchanged for a 2021 game.

The Lakewood BlueClaws, an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, would have celebrated their 20th season this year. They plan to move celebrations to 2021.

This is the first time Minor League Baseball has had to cancel a season since it began in 1901.

Jersey City lounge cited for indoor dining

Jersey City municipal officials are taking legal action against The Factory Restaurant and Lounge, which opened for indoor dining last weekend and hosted large crowds packed inside the building. Gov. Murphy urged officials in other counties to take a similar stance, stating that, “No one should get a pass for putting public health at risk.” Other restaurants have been cited for indoor dining, as noted by Col. Pat Callahan.

Commissioner Judy Persichilli emphasized that the danger of indoor dining is exacerbated by guests sitting in the same place for extended time, often lingering longer than at a store, lower ceilings — as opposed to high ceilings in a mall — and poor ventilation, and not wearing masks while eating or drinking.

As an example, she mentioned a restaurant in Michigan connected to 100 positive cases of the coronavirus and a house party in Cape May county over Memorial Day weekend that resulted in 14 positive cases.

Gov. Murphy’s executive order prohibiting indoor dining remains. However, the health commissioner assured that outdoor dining can be done safely with social distancing and “should be fine.”

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