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NJ to Provide Graduation, Beach Guidance Amid COVID Crisis

by Montana Samuels, Patch Staff

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to FULL story:

Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday said he’s almost ready to provide new guidance for graduations and New Jersey beaches, and he reaffirmed his position that schools should be fully in-person.

Murphy said he’ll be ready to provide guidance next week that will allow more normality, assuming that the state’s coronavirus numbers continue to trend in the right direction after going “a little bit sideways” Tuesday and Wednesday, Murphy said.

“… But assuming they do, and our prospects and optimism remain high, we’re going to give a pretty significant amount of guidance by early to mid next week,” Murphy said.

State health officials and the Murphy administration have held off on a larger lifting of restrictions, citing weariness toward a “lurch.”“We’re the only state in America that has not lurched, in other words gone forward and had to pull something back. We don’t want to start that now,” said Murphy.

Still, the governor acknowledged that people should be able to start planning for major events, especially graduations.

“We also owe people our best guess as to what it’s going to look like for graduation, summer and the beaches,” Murphy said.

Murphy offered his plans while saying he expects schools will be fully in-person during the fall, and he repeated his call that more districts should move in that direction before the 2020-21 year is over.

The beach and graduation guidance, meanwhile, has been under consideration since at least Monday, and local officials have begun calling on the governor to lift outdoor gathering restrictions prior to graduation season.

“Our lives are marked with a few seminal moments,” said Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench. “I would include an academic achievement, like graduation, among those moments. We need to allow our children to experience these moments as we did, or as close as we can possibly can.”

The outdoor gathering limit is currently set at 200 people.

This comes as state officials are “cautiously optimistic” that New Jersey’s second wave of the coronavirus is beginning to taper off.

“It’s baby steps, but I do like the fact that numbers are slowly beginning to go in a better direction,” Murphy said during a Monday news conference.

Those “baby steps” present a notable shift from 2020, when many graduations were delayed, and some were even held as in-car ceremonies. Still, some restrictions could remain in place.

6abc reports that Clearview Regional High School’s senior prom won’t feature any dancing due to indoor gathering restrictions still in place. Banquet halls can host indoor gatherings up to 30 percent capacity or 150 people under the current guidelines.

On the topic of schools, Murphy reaffirmed his commitment to opening schools.

The governor said he was “disappointed” in the decision within Jersey City schools to postpone an in-person reopening due to a teacher shortage.

However, the administration is committed to a return to normalcy in the fall.

“We’re back in business in September, Monday through Friday,” said Murphy. “What happens between now and then is to be determined.”