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April 07, 2020

New Jersey closes state, county parks due to persistent gatherings amid coronavirus outbreak

Gov. Murphy also signs order waiving state assessment requirements for eighth graders, high school seniors

Parks Coronavirus
New Jersey state county parks closed coronavirus covid-19 Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

New Jersey residents will no longer be permitted to visit state or county parks for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy says.

New Jersey state and county parks are being closed because state officials have observed too many group gatherings in them during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Tuesday shutting down all 51 state parks and forests until further notice. It also affects numerous county parks. 

“I do not take this action lightly,” Murphy said. “Some of my fondest memories with my own children are beautiful spring days in parks playing soccer and enjoying our family. But my focus, and my sole mission in life right now, is the health of every New Jersey family.”

Murphy issued a stay-at-home order last month to enforce social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. He also mandated all non-essential businesses to close and banned public and private gatherings of any size. 

New Jersey has 44,416 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 1,232 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon. Only neighboring New York has more. The majority of cases are in North Jersey, but South Jersey has 2,120 positive cases and 41 deaths.

The state's public health emergency, first declared by Murphy on March 9, has been extended another 30 days. Murphy said the extension “ensures we will continue to take appropriate steps to protect the public health and welfare of New Jerseyans.”

Murphy also signed an executive order waiving 2019-20 student assessment requirements for eighth grade students and high school seniors set to graduate this spring.

“As a state, we must continue to adapt to the new reality that COVID-19 has created, in our state, a task that our students and educators are navigating every day,” Murphy said. “This will ensure that no student is left behind or unduly penalized due to these extraordinary circumstances.”

The decision to hold graduation ceremonies this spring are being left up to local municipalities. But Murphy said residents should not assume the events will go forward as originally planned. 

“I’m not trying to be flippant, but I wouldn’t put any nonrefundable checks down on your celebrations right now,” Murphy said. “I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that I am not.

“In my shoes, you wouldn’t be dealing with the facts if I were to say publicly right now that you should feel OK about a late May, early June graduation celebration. I just personally don’t see it. I hope I’m wrong.”

All standardized testing scheduled for this spring already has been canceled. New Jersey received a federal waiver to cancel the computerized exams that were scheduled to begin on April 20.

The cancellation of the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment, previously known as the PARCC, will not prevent seniors from receiving their diplomas this year, Murphy has said.

Murphy ordered all New Jersey schools to close on March 18 until further notice. He has since said that schools will remain closed until at least April 17, the final day of spring break for many public and private schools. 

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