- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday said physical school buildings in the state will be closed for the rest of the academic year and that the state is staring at an increasingly untenable budget situation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Murphy said he hoped the state could get back to a “sense of normal” by allowing students to return to physical school buildings.

“But the reality is we cannot safely reopen our schools to provide students and families or faculty and staff the confidence needed to allow for a return to in-person instruction,” he said.

He also said that amid financial difficulties from the pandemic, he’s rescinding an executive order from last year directing the state to achieve a $1.28 billion surplus by the end of this fiscal year.

“Absent significant outside assistance, this is no longer feasible,” Mr. Murphy said. “A fiscal disaster is not months away — these decisions will be on our doorstep in literally just a few weeks.”

He said even if Congress approves new funding, New Jersey will still likely have to find ways to borrow funds on a short-term basis.

“Even Warren Buffett said this weekend this is a good time to borrow money — let’s get this done,” he said.

Mr. Murphy said there are now more than 128,000 positive cases in New Jersey and more than 7,900 coronavirus-related deaths out of a population of close to 9 million people, but that a system outage means the overnight numbers could be even higher.

He did report a steady recent decline in the number of hospitalizations, intensive care unit (ICU) patients, and ventilator usage in the state.

New Jersey is the second-hardest-hit U.S. state behind New York in terms of cases and deaths.

Mr. Murphy’s comments come as a working group is working on plans to gradually reopen the state’s economy, and as more states relax some of their own coronavirus-related restrictions on business.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had made a similar announcement for schools in his state Friday.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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