N.J. coronavirus recovery: Smoking banned in casinos; schools get guidance on how to handle positive

Sep 4, 2020

New Jersey reported another 478 cases of coronavirus Friday, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 193,422 cases over the last six months.

Another 7 residents died from COVID-19, which means there have now been 14,195 lab-confirmed deaths and 1,783 probable deaths attributed to the outbreak.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor's Office)

The state’s rate of transmission was 1.03, which means everyone who tests positive for the disease was spreading it to at least one other person, and the spot positivity rate for coronavirus tests was 1.81.

Murphy backpedals, bans smoking in Atlantic City casinos

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that smoking would continue to be banned in Atlantic City casinos with the return of indoor dining the same day.

The governor reversed course after signing an executive order to restart indoor dining that would have allowed smoking in the gambling houses.

“We have looked closely at the science and agree with the experts who have concluded that allowing smoking is too big a risk to take,” Murphy said.

Casinos were permitted to reopen in July but patrons were not allowed to smoke inside.

Guidance released on how schools should deal with coronavirus cases

The Department of Health has released guidance to school districts on what actions to take — including if and when to close — in the event that a student, teacher, or staff members tests positive for coronavirus.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the guidance was advisory and encouraged districts to make their own decisions based on local knowledge.

“School closure is a local decision that should be made by local administrators in consultation with local public health officials,” she said.

According to the state’s guidance, a school can remain open if it has one positive case, two or more cases in one classroom or “cohort,” or two or more cases with a 14-day window that were caused by an outside exposure. It is recommended that those in close contact with the people who tested positive stay home for 14 days.

If a school has two or more cases within 14 days linked to a school activity and those cases are in different classrooms, the district should follow the recommendations of a local health department investigation.

Districts should consider closing a school for 14 days in the event of a “significant community outbreak” that affects multiple staff members, students, and their families.

Schools are encouraged to close for 14 days if they report two or more cases across multiple classrooms without a clear connection between them.

As of Friday, the state had approved the plans of 607 New Jersey school districts preparing to start the new academic year. Of them 354 are using a hybrid model of in-person and online learning, 172 are planning all-remote learning, 59 are entirely in-person, and 22 districts have a combination of plans among multiple schools.

“It’s a school year unlike any other,” Murphy said. “Don’t expect normalcy — or at least an old normalcy.”

Restaurant’s liquor license suspended for flouting coronavirus rules

New Jersey is looking to revoke the liquor license of a Burlington City restaurant for numerous violations of the state’s coronavirus restrictions on eateries and bars.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Thursday that the state had suspended the liquor license of Il Portico Ristorante and is now seeking to revoke the liquor license outright.

“When a selfish owner or manager flagrantly violates these orders, they not only put in danger the progress we’ve made — they give a black eye to many more business owners who continue to play by the rules,” Gov. Murphy said.

The charges stemmed from a late-night July 3 party of more than 500 people at Il Portico, which allegedly served patrons indoors and did not require customers to wear face coverings, authorities said.

Investigators returned to the restaurant in August and reported additional violations.

According to the attorney general’s office, Il Portico is the first establishment facing the possible revocation of its liquor license for coronavirus violations that also received a COVID-19 Expansion Permit, which allows restaurants and bars to temporarily expand their physical premises to accommodate increased outdoor dining.

The restaurant is entitled to a full hearing on the state’s intention to revoke its liquor license.