All of New Jersey’s schools will close indefinitely this Wednesday, in what Gov. Phil Murphy described as the “strongest and most direct efforts to date” to slow the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the Garden State.
“All schools in New Jersey, public, private, parochial, from pre-K through grade 12, and colleges and universities, will close effective Wednesday March 18th,” Murphy said on Twitter, adding that they will remain closed “until such time as deemed by health officials to be safe for classes to resume.”
This is not time to panic, but it is also not time for business as usual.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 16, 2020
Murphy said during a news conference on Monday afternoon that he expected the closure to last a minimum of two weeks, but he also reminded the New Jerseyans to “not tie ourselves to an arbitrary date.”
“Many districts and institutions of higher education had preemptively announced closures of at least two weeks,” he said. “We all need to prepare for the likelihood that it will, in fact, be much longer.”
State agricultural and educational officials are working to make sure the nutritional needs of all students will be met, according to Murphy. This includes providing free and reduced meals to students at home.
Prior to Murphy’s decision, Newark Public Schools, the state’s largest public school district, announced its closure last week, although there has yet to be any confirmed COVID-19 case in the densely populated city.
“While the Newark Public Schools are taking precautions in regard to the spread of the Coronavirus by closing schools for the next couple of weeks, we strongly expect for our children to be supervised and indoors, focusing on their school work during this time,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “This is not an impromptu vacation. This is an opportunity for our city to take an international health emergency seriously and to help protect our city.”
In accordance with the government’s instruction, New Jersey’s Rutgers University announced on Tuesday that all in-person academic programs—except the clinical ones—will be suspended for the remainder of the spring semester. All events scheduled at Rutgers through May are also suspended.
Earlier this month, student newspaper The Daily Targum reported that a biomedical engineering professor at Rutgers tested positive for COVID-19. The Biomedical Engineering building where he worked has been promptly closed and disinfected.
As of Tuesday, New Jersey’s health department has reported 267 confirmed cases of COVID-19, rising from less than 100 confirmed cases from the previous day.