New Jersey public schools to remain closed through at least May 15, Gov. Murphy announces

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey's schools will be closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak at least until May 15, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

Murphy ordered the state's more than 600 school districts to close last month as part of an effort to halt the spread of the virus.

"We cannot be guided by emotion. We need to be guided by where the facts on the ground, science and public health take us. And that means it will not be safe to reopen our schools or start sports back up for at least another four weeks," said Murphy.

Neighboring Pennsylvania has closed schools through the rest of the year.

The first-term Democratic governor also reported that the number of deaths due to the virus climbed by 362 to 3,518.

There are more than 75,000 residents with the virus, he said.

Despite the growing number of positive tests and a surging death toll, Murphy said social distancing efforts "are working."

As evidence, he said that the rate the number of cases doubles has been going up across the state from about every three days to seven days.

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Murphy says the more people continue to social distance over the next four weeks, the better chance there is of possibly re-opening schools.

For now, it's a waiting game with students and teachers at home. Many say the switch to virtual learning has been a big adjustment for students and parents.

"Thank God for technology. Things like Zoom - he can at least see and talk to some of his teachers and his friends," said parent Karen Casey of Mullica Hill, N.J.

We found students trying to look on the bright side in these uncertain times.

"I think after all of this, it'll bring us all closer and enjoy everything more and the time we have together," said senior Kendall Hendricks, about to graduate from Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill.

A look at other developments:

LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES

A request for 25 body bags led police to find more than a dozen corpses at a New Jersey nursing home.

The state is opening an investigation into Andover Rehabilitation in Sussex County after a number of bodies were removed this week amid the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak at this nursing home may be the deadliest in New Jersey.

According to the police, following the request for body bags Monday, investigators found 17 bodies in the facility's holding area.

READ MORE: Tip leads police to 17 bodies at a New Jersey nursing home
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FEWER JOBLESS CLAIMS , BUT STILL A LOT

Unemployment claims in New Jersey fell by 34% last week, the state Labor Department said Thursday, but they were still much higher than before the governor's stay-at-home order went into effect on March 21.

The economic fallout stems from the coronavirus outbreak that has led officials to shutter schools and businesses. More than 140,000 people sought jobless benefits last week, the department said.

That's down from about 215,000 the week before, compared with roughly 8,000 applications in the first week of March.

The jobless claims filed during the outbreak have shattered previous high water marks set after Superstorm Sandy, when single-week claims reached 46,000.

Over six weeks beginning in early March, the state has paid about $425 million unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. The state's unemployment trust fund had about $3 billion, according to the department's report to the Legislature last year.

RELATED: Gov. Murphy: 'I don't see normal gathering in foreseeable future'
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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says he doesn't see a normal gathering in the foreseeable future.


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REOPENING COUNCIL Former Obama administration Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Dr. Richard Besser will serve on the multi-state council to reopen the region's economies, Murphy said. Johnson headed Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017 under Barack Obama. Besser is a medical doctor and the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Murphy and other governors on the East Coast have said they'll work together to restart their economies after the outbreak, but they haven't given a timeline.

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100 VENTILATORS FROM NEW YORK New York has donated 100 ventilators to New Jersey, according to the governor. New Jersey's northern neighbor is at the center of the outbreak in the United States. New Jersey is currently using about 1,600 ventilators, or 56% of its statewide capacity.

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ABOUT THE VIRUS For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
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