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NJ Reveals Plan to Reopen Colleges, Universities Amid Coronavirus

Social distancing, disinfecting and other measures will be in place when students and staff return to New Jersey colleges and universities this summer and fall

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Ten familiar aspects of campus life will need to change for New Jersey's college and university campuses to reopen safely, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday.

The state is including those 10 aspects as it develops a new framework for summer sessions and the fall semester as students and staffs return to campuses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The areas to be covered by the framework include classes, housing, research, dining halls, study abroad, athletics and more. Murphy said the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education would release specific guidance soon for reopening.

"The health of everyone on campus is critical to the overall public health of our state," Murphy said.

There are mandatory restrictions and non-binding recommendations included in the 20-page framework, officials said.

Higher Ed Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis said that the health of all people on campuses are key. Keeping a distance of 6 feet apart in classrooms, proper disinfection and the option to teach virtually are part of the framework. Face coverings and masks will be needed indoors and strongly recommend outdoors, she said.

Campus spaces from dorms to dining halls to classrooms will look different. One such example is that dining hall buffets won't be allowed, Smith Ellis said.

Robust testing and contact tracing will be part of the plan, Smith Ellis said.

"Through guidance that will be forthcoming, we aim to strike a balance between responsible public health and safe resumption of activities through a staged framework that slowly and deliberately reinvigorates campuses’ collaborative culture across the state," the higher ed department tweeted.

Colleges and universities must submit their phased approach to reopening plans to the state at least 14 days before students and staff return to campus, Murphy and higher education officials said.

On Wednesday, Murphy also announced that as of July 1 in-person labs and clinical research could resume at colleges and universities and career and training schools can start back up with health and safety measures in place.

As of Wednesday, New Jersey had nearly 168,000 coronavirus cases and 12,769 people had died from COVID-19 complications.

Overall, New Jersey has seen fewer people getting sick and dying from the virus for several weeks now. As New Jersey has seen coronavirus hospitalizations and cases slow down, Murphy has slowly reopened parts of the economy.

Many outdoor activities are now allowed and in the coming days salons, barbers and other personal care businesses can reopen to in-person visits with social-distancing measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in place. Organized outdoor sports will resume in the coming weeks.

The first-term Democrat has said that proper social-distancing measures and mask wearing can continue to drive down the spread of the virus. He said that only with a continued slowing of the spread of COVID-19 can New Jersey enter Stage 3 on its road to economic recovery.

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