The Murphy administration COVID outbreak that wasn’t

Alma L. Figueroa

Good Monday morning!

Here’s some good news: So far, there are no signs of the feared outbreak in the Murphy administration. Adviser Dan Bryan’s first test was positive, but two subsequent tests have come up negative. And 66 people who work at 225 W State Street were tested and came up negative, Bryan said. That leaves just one positive case among top Murphy aides: Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Delamater.

Politically, the worst news to come out of this for Murphy is that we saw him hanging out with former aide Adam Alonso.

The lack of an outbreak has allowed the Murphy administration to draw a contrast between itself and the Trump administration, with Vice President Mike Pence still traveling around the country despite five of his top aides testing positive. See George Helmy’s tweets here.

But here’s some much worse news: New Jersey, like much of the country, is seeing big coronavirus numbers. Saturday saw almost 2,000 positive results, though hopefully that was a blip, as that number was down to 1,140 on Sunday — closer to the figures we’ve been seeing for the last week. Still, an alarming spike. Hospitalizations are up, but not exponentially. And the number of deaths has still not dramatically spiked.

WHERE’S MURPHY? — In cyberspace for a 1 p.m. virtual coronavirus press conference.

CORONAVIRUS TRACKER — 1,140 newly-diagnosed cases for a total of 228,468. Four more deaths for a total of 14,496 (not counting 1,789 presumed deaths).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Guide Publications’ Mike Beson, Anbaric’s Janice Fuller, Nassau Consulting Group’s Michael Pock, Rabbi Eitan Webb

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When you leave the family, I have nothing to say to you.” — The late political boss Steve Adubato to The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran in 2007, on then-Assemblymember Wilfredo Caraballo (D-Essex) making a budget vote against the Essex County Democratic machine’s consensus.

BYE BYE ALLBIRDIE — “Will Murphy leave NJ for the Biden administration if former VP wins? Here are the odds,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “The Biden buzz surrounding Gov. Phil Murphy never entirely stops, no matter how many times he swats it away. ‘My job is New Jersey and I can’t imagine, even in peacetime, I can’t imagine another job,’ Murphy said in an interview with Politico in August … But with the possibility of a victory for former Vice President Joe Biden looking more like a probability, the ‘Will Murphy Leave?’ question has bubbled up again. Here’s why it’s highly unlikely that he’ll abandon ship … It seems unlikely that he’ll want to settle into a cabinet post, which is the equivalent of being a second-tier executive. U.S. Treasury secretary has power and prestige, but with that post comes a lot of gritty, un-glamorous work in the world of finance … Murphy would also face tough questions in a Senate confirmation hearing over the matter of Katie Brennan … Team Biden is not likely eager to draw any negative publicity. And Murphy has already positioned himself as the odds-on favorite to win reelection in 2021, with little threat of a serious primary challenge … If Murphy looks in the mirror every morning and sees a future President Murphy — a common vanity tic for governors — his best play is to compile a progressive, post-COVID-19 agenda in his second term to make himself viable for a possible run in 2024.”

6.4 BODY CAMASTROS — Legislature moves to appropriate $58M for police body cameras, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Days after Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed a bill requiring nearly all uniformed police officers in New Jersey to wear body cameras — in part because of funding concerns — Democratic lawmakers are moving to fund the mandate. State Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) on Thursday introduced legislation, NJ S3089, that would appropriate $58 million for the cameras. The bill is not yet online. “I think we’ll be OK in terms of dollars from the general fund, and I think there’s an expression of commitment here to try to get this done,” Cryan said in a phone interview Friday. The original bill, NJ S1163 (20R), would have paid for the cameras through a forfeiture fund account. But in his conditional veto message, Murphy said that account only contains about $2 million. According to a recent report by the attorney general’s office, less than half of the 537 law enforcement agencies in New Jersey have body cameras.

NEW WAVE: DOCTORS SEARCH FOR THE CURE AS HEALTH OFFICIALS URGE SAFETY DANCE — “The second coronavirus wave is here in NJ. Here’s why it’s different from last time,” by The Record’s Lindy Washburn: “Experts anticipate there will be more cases with fewer deaths, as younger people account for more of the infections and treatment improves. But none of the current medications is a knockout punch, and people are still hospitalized and die of COVID-19 — including 758 in the hospital Sunday, with 62 on ventilators. No vaccine has yet been approved. The potential that the current trend could accelerate as it did in the spring, with exponential community spread, is real. Contact tracing, masking and social distancing practices will help fight the surge. But state officials are redoubling their push for precautions.”

PTC — “NJ Transit heads into homestretch to implement safety system. Will it make the goal?” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “NJ Transit heads into homestretch to implement safety system. Train service or no train service? The looming Dec. 31 deadline for NJ Transit to have a federally mandated safety system approved and running is close to two months away. Blowing that deadline could bring rail service to a halt, but NJ Transit officials reiterated their past mantra that the agency would meet the Positive Train Control deadline. The agency is nibbling away at live testing with 66% of the agency’s track miles being tested, said Terry Fedders, Parsons Inc. project manager during an update at the board meeting … Fedders hinted that they want to start testing PTC on the 45-mile Coast Line earlier. That would represent 80% of NJ Transit’s rail lines in final PTC testing, he said. The Coast Line is NJ Transit’s third-largest in terms of ridership. The last rail line to undergo revenue service testing will be the Atlantic City Line, in December. ‘We are on target for 100% completion before Dec. 31,’ Fedders said.”

NURSING HOMESMurphy signs law setting staffing ratios for New Jersey nursing homes, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed legislation that will require the state’s long-term care homes to hire hundreds of certified nursing assistants to look after residents during day shifts. Lawmakers sent the bill, NJ S2712 (20R), to the governor’s desk late last month over the objections of long-term care operators who’d argued its requirements would be too onerous.

—“New COVID outbreak at Dellridge nursing home in Paramus has left two dead, 36 residents positive

— Senate to move forward with in-person hearings as lawmakers quarantine

Nine-bill package would strengthen protections for sexual assault survivors

— “Ex-Hudson assemblyman is co-conspirator in federal corruption complaint, sources confirm

—“Former inmates on parole speak about getting the right to vote

Solar reps back PSE&G’s electric vehicle, energy storage proposal

—“Mehta ties Bucco to president who doesn’t wear a mask

—“NJ transitioning 11 MVC locations to appointment-only

—“No, marijuana won’t be legal right away if the N.J. referendum passes. Here’s what you can’t do

—A.J. Sabath: “The liquor industry’s dirty little secret

IGNORECROSS — “Kennedy on the ground in Gloucester County,” by InsiderNJ’s Max Pizarro: “The dynamics of an unhealed primary election gave at least one source reason to doubt the Democratic challenger’s concussive general election campaign and fret about a ‘closer than it needs to be’ race against Van Drew, noting that CD3’s Andy Kim, by contrast, packages himself as a darling of the progressives even as maintains close ties to Sweeney and South Jersey overlord George Norcross III. ‘There was never a phone call,’ the source groaned, citing the lingering disconnect between Sweeney and Norcross, and the Kennedys (Amy is the wife of former Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island). No one from either camp took the initiative to pick up the phone. Maybe it was that emissary from Norcross world early on who had offered a legislative opportunity to Amy Kennedy. The Kennedys took offense, promptly annihilated Harrison, who had relied on multiple machine endorsements on a signal from Sweeney, and then deep froze the bosses deep in this general election cycle, who in turn maintained their own frosty distance. A mistake? Maybe. Or maybe it was a true sign of resistance, well-advised reluctance to rely on too-cozy cross-the-aisle Democratic Party leaders – and consistency to a fault.”

SKENDALL — “Trump Family ally is arrested on cyberstalking charge,” by The New York Times’ Nicole Hong and Jesse Drucker: “Two years ago, the Trump administration offered a seat on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities to Ken Kurson, a close friend of the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. As part of the routine background check for the position, the F.B.I. uncovered a swirl of harassment allegations against Mr. Kurson over his divorce in 2015. He then withdrew from consideration, but the fallout from the nomination did not end there. On Friday, federal prosecutors charged Mr. Kurson with cyberstalking three people and harassing two others, including a friend whom he blamed for the deterioration of his marriage.”

BILLY THE QIDD — “‘A psychotic cult rooted in violence’: How a far right-wing conspiracy theory infiltrated N.J. politics,” by NJ Advance Media’s Matthew Stanmyre: “The hatred and vitriol overwhelmed Tom Malinowski’s inboxes. Emails. Voicemails. Social media direct messages. The threats warned Malinowski, the Democratic congressman from New Jersey’s 7th District, that he would ‘never be safe on the streets,’ that they hoped someone puts ‘a bullet in your head” and that ‘20 illegals rape your ugly wife.’ The horrifying onslaught was all part of Malinowski’s disturbing brush with QAnon, a far right-wing, loosely organized network that embraces a range of wild, unsubstantiated beliefs. The congressman found himself in the group’s crosshairs after he introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning the group last month … In fact,, a progressive media website, estimates as many as 87 current or former congressional candidates embrace the QAnon theory, including three from New Jersey: Billy Prempeh, a Republican running in the 9th Congressional District, and two other Republican candidates who lost in the July primaries. ‘This is a psychotic cult rooted in fantasies and violence,’ said Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., who is running against Prempeh in the 9th District. ‘They’re enemies of our civilization.’”

NICE — “Dozens of N.J. lawsuits against Trump on issues that affect millions could also be decided by Election 2020,” by NJ Advance Media’s Blake Nelson: “The Garden State has sued the federal government at least 69 times in the last three years, almost always joining other left-leaning states, according an NJ Advance Media analysis of court records and state data. The total is more than all the multi-state suits New Jersey joined during the previous four decades, according to a database by a Marquette University professor. New Jersey jointly sued the federal government only 54 times from 1980 through early 2018, when state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal took office. ‘I am not viscerally anti-Trump’ Grewal said earlier this month. ‘Our direct goal has always been to push back against illegal actions by the federal government that affect New Jerseyans.’”

—“Malinowski keeps fundraising lead, but cash advantage dwindles

—“This is the only N.J. Democrat [Malinowski] that Republicans are spending millions to defeat

THE COUNT — “N.J. votes are being counted more than a week before Election Day. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look,” by NJ Advance Media’s Josh Axelrod: “Saturday marked 10 days to go until the general election — a referendum for many on a president who has sought to curtail mail-in voting — and county officials began counting ballots in order to avoid days or weeks of uncertainty. ‘There are so many votes to be counted, and if we were to wait until Election Day, it could be arguably be 10, 20 days after election day before results would be published,’ Christopher Powell, Gloucester County Board of Elections Chairman, told NJ Advance Media.”

—“Here are the counties where early voter turnout has been highest

—“’I don’t want to die’: Desperate pleas for Obamacare from NJ

THE BURLINGTON COUNTY TIME’S UP — “Demolition crew razing former Burlington County Times building in Willingboro,” by The Courier-Post’s Jim Walsh: “A demolition crew is turning the former home of the Burlington County Times into piles of concrete, steel and rubble. But those who once worked there say nothing can destroy their memories from the landmark building on Route 130. ‘It was a living, breathing building,’ said Soraya ‘Si’ Smith of Cherry Hill, an advertising department employee from 1991 to 2001. She described the once-bustling site — where reporters rushed to meet deadlines, presses roared and delivery trucks hurried away to subscribers’ homes — as ‘the very pulse of a community.’”

New Brunswick voters to decide on expanding city council,” by The Courier-News’ Susan Loyer: “The city has grown and the city council should grow with it. That’s the argument behind the question in this year’s election whether the city council should be expanded from five to seven members. All city council members would be elected at-large. Earlier this year, a committee submitted a letter to the city clerk calling for the expansion because of New Brunswick’s growing and increasingly diverse population.”

WHILE THE LAKEWOOD SCHOOL BOARD PAYS ITS LAWYER $600K — “Lakewood students stranded; the morning school bus has been a no show since Tuesday,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Gustavo Martínez Contreras: “Where’s the school bus? Dozens of public school students were asking that question this week, after being left high and dry at the bus stop without notice. The morning school bus hasn’t stopped for them since Tuesday, students and parents said. Some hitched rides or shared $8 and $10 cab rides, or were forced to skip school. ‘Our bus just stopped showing up and nobody has told us what’s happening,’ Darhenz Aquino, a high school freshman, told the Asbury Park Press while waiting for a school bus that never showed Friday morning. ‘Our parents called, but they didn’t give them a reason.’ ‘I have been calling since Tuesday when the bus didn’t show up,’ said Beatriz Simón, whose daughter attends the high school … Students and parents alike said they received no notice that their children would be freelancing it to school, and no explanation has been forthcoming from school officials.”

—“Elmwood Park ex-councilman switches parties to run again after resigning from position

—“Trenton residents march to the ballot box. ‘My ancestors are looking down at me’

—“Four arrested after protesters and police clash in Englewood

—“Vineland police captain takes retaliation complaint into state court

—“Hillsborough Democrats aim for township committee control

—“Middletown Township Committee race: Open space, development and fiscal responsibility

—“Mayor Fulop: Policing has changed in Jersey City

—“Trenton keeps fighting OxyContin opioid drugmaker amid $8B federal settlement

LABOR — “Immigrant workers say they were fired from Leonia warehouse after COVID-19 complaints,” by The Record’s Monsy Alvarado: “On Thursday, the former employees and their allies protested outside the Leonia building and delivered a letter, signed by their attorney, Lina Stillman, saying they were made to work in unsafe conditions that left them exposed to COVID-19 and dangerous chemicals. After they complained about a lack of protective gear, 18 of the workers, all immigrants, including Garcia and Castaneda, were fired illegally in early June, without warning or a severance package, the protestors said”

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