TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday that New Jersey expects to have all schools open for full-time in-person learning by the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
The state has now distributed more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccines, with 1.1 million people fully vaccinated, and Murphy said the focus on vaccinating teachers will only increase safety at schools that are already showing low transmission rates.
He said there have only been 800 cases linked to in-person learning since August 1, out of 565,000 confirmed cases statewide. He also said the biggest shift back to in-person learning has been in the last week, and more than half of all schools are at least on a hybrid system.
"(Thursday) marks one year since all of our schools closed and transitioned to all-remote learning," he said. "Now is the time for all of our schools to meaningfully move forward with a return to in-person instruction, whether it be full-time or through a hybrid schedule."
RELATED: More essential workers, high-risk individuals now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey
Murphy said CVS, Walgreens and RiteAid are all reserving appointments for and prioritizing educators and child care workers, in an effort to speed up the process.
"A full year is not how students move forward," he said.
He said the state's initial goal is to vaccinate 70% of the adult population, roughly 4.7 million people, and that Walmart is setting aside a minimum of 10,000 doses each week for seniors ages 65 and older.
"Defeating this virus means ensuring both equitable access and equitable distribution, and we're fully committed to this," he said.
Counting the initial doses of Pfizer and Moderna along with the number of Johnson & Johnson doses administered, the state is at roughly 45% of its target having received at least the first shot.
RELATED: Gov. Murphy boosts indoor occupancy for some gatherings, businesses
Murphy also announced the prohibition on outdoor interstate youth sports competitions will expire on Friday, though the ban on indoor interstate sports competitions will remain in effect.
Also Friday, restaurants and other businesses in New Jersey will increase to 50% indoor capacity, coinciding with easing of restrictions of other states in the region.
The new rules apply to restaurants and bars, personal care businesses (like barbershops and salons) and recreation and amusement businesses (like casinos and gyms).
Gatherings will increase from 10 people indoors to 25, and from 25 people outdoors to 50.
The new rules go into effect at 6 a.m. on March 19.
Additionally, beginning on Monday, March 29, frontline essential workers in the following categories are also eligible for vaccination:
--Food production, agriculture, and food distribution
--Eldercare and support
--Warehousing and logistics
--Social services support staff
--Medical supply chain
--Postal and shipping services