Public Health Emergency Extended as MVC Plans Reopening

Gov. Phil Murphy today extended the state’s public health emergency for another 30 days, even as COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased to 1,933 and New Jersey is set to begin Stage 2 of its reopening plan on June 15.

“To be absolutely clear, we are fully continuing our preparations for entering Stage 2 on June 15, unabated,” Murphy said at today’s COVID-19 press conference. “[The extension of the public health emergency] does not mean that we are seeing anything which would pause our path forward. But, what this does mean is that we will have the authority to remain vigilant and be prepared to act, should there be a new outbreak of COVID-19.”

Murphy meanwhile “anticipates” that he will make an announcement on Monday regarding the reopening of outdoor pools, including those for municipalities and at private clubs.

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission

Other announcements today surround the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), which will begin its multi-stage restart via “pick up and drop off services” on June 15, Murphy said.

The MVC’s Chief Administrator Sue Fulton detailed a plan surrounding reopening the agency, which has 2,783 employees who annually serve approximately 6 million customers.

“The Motor Vehicle Commission used to mean a lot of people crowded into small spaces,” Fulton said at today’s press conference. “We can’t operate like that in a COVID-19 world. Our reopening plan reimagines MVC workflows, with streamlined processes to ensure that the customer spends as little time as possible inside the MVC.”

Since the commission’s pandemic-related March 15 closure, Fulton said customers have renewed or replaced approximately 500,000 registrations and 250,000 licenses online.

She encouraged residents to continue to do so, saying, “The more folks use online transactions, fewer people will come into the agency, and the more we can keep people healthy and safe.”

As part of the MVC’s reopening, certain MVC facilities will be designated as “licensing centers” and others as “vehicle centers.”

Fulton said “licensing centers will offer all license and ID transactions, as well as driver testing. Vehicle centers will offer registration, title and license plate transactions. This will allow us to streamline our workflow, keep people separated, and speed up service.”

Fulton offered an array of other specifics including that initial transactions will be for bulk processing and validating permits from driving schools and high schools on a drop off basis at licensing centers, and for bulk processing title work and registrations from dealers.

Fulton said, “All these activities will help us clear a three-month backlog from our March 15 closure. I know that you want to hear that on June 15 we are going to throw the doors open and reopen everything, but we have to clear the backlog. Clearing the bulk transactions is necessary to make room for walk-in customers. We will also be turning systems on the week of June 15, that will allow you to make appointments for road tests or REAL ID, so that when we start walk-ins, we’ll be able to serve everyone.”

Fulton said June 29 is the MVC’s target date to start road tests and reissuing new licenses and permits.

“With the help of some New Jersey colleges, we have been able to add 11 road test courses, on a temporary basis,” Fulton said. “And we are reassigning over 100 safety specialists from our bus inspection units to serve as road test examiners. And, yes, they are fully trained as road test examiners; that’s the safety specialist title. This is going to enable us to do an additional 10,800 road tests, per week. Our previous average was 5,800. So, we are tripling our capacity.”

Public Health Update

Overall, New Jersey now has 1,933 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide, with 542 patients in intensive care and 410 on ventilators. There were 79 new fatalities announced today, for a total of 12,049 COVID-19 deaths statewide since the pandemic began. The cumulative total for positive COVID-19 cases during the pandemic now sits at 163,336.

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