COVID-19 changed the daily routine in New Jersey in 2020, sewing a thread through the state’s other top stories.
Homes have been converted into offices and classrooms. Reality became virtual. The muffled murmur of placing takeaway orders while wearing masks became the norm, and alfresco dining initially replaced the convenience of meeting family and friends in restaurants and bars.
When the salons were closed, Jersey’s “big hair” got longer and grayer.
All the restrictions placed by Governor Phil Murphy and his health team sought to curb the infection rate and deaths. And the Democrat wasn’t shy about tackling a stance in New Jersey by referring to the offenders as “ankles.”
At the end of the year, there was hope that the stenciled, socially distant footprints in stores and elsewhere would lead to a return to normal. Along the way, other stories shared attention with the pandemic: voters and lawmakers paved the way for recreational marijuana; A federal judge’s family was shocked with gun violence and resentment by a lawyer. and the US Supreme Court justices incriminated a classic episode of New Jersey-style political repayment.
A look at some of the top stories of the year in New Jersey:
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New Jersey, a 30-year-old health worker who shuttled between Fort Lee and New York City, was announced in early March.
Less than a month later, 25,000 people were infected and more than 500 died, plunging the state into an existential crisis that crippled its economy and exposed a deep rift between government officials keen to contain the pandemic and residents and small business owners chafing at restrictions on theirs Life and livelihood.
The faces of Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli became known at daily briefings.
Murphy’s order to close gyms, cinemas, and other businesses that were deemed not essential, and to limit restaurants to take-out only sparked cries from many – and more than a few lawsuits – but by the summer the action seemed to be so Having helped slow the spread.
In the fall, the numbers started rising again, and by the end of the year the virus had claimed more than 16,000 lives in the state.
In December, the introduction of two new vaccines raised a ray of hope. Like much else in 2020, however, the feel-good moment was short-lived as officials learned shortly after the initial gunshots that the state’s initial vaccine shipments would be reduced by nearly 40%.
The coronavirus hit Atlantic City’s nine casinos and closed them from mid-March to early July.
When it reopened, capacity was only 25% full due to government restrictions designed to slow the transmission of the virus.
In the fall, Murphy further restricted the casinos’ operations by banning them from serving food and drinks after 10 p.m.
The financial picture of casinos would have been grim had it not been for the steady growth of internet gambling revenues and a smaller but equally thriving sports betting industry.
For the first eleven months of this year, casinos made less than $ 2.4 billion, a decrease of 21.5% from the first eleven months of last year.
Many casino employees remained unemployed and waited for capacity restrictions to be lifted or relaxed in 2021.
New Jersey voted overwhelmingly (2-1) to amend the state constitution to allow a recreational marijuana market for people age 21 and older.
The change will take effect on New Years Day, but there won’t be a marketplace to buy a pot to ring in in 2021. Legislators sent Murphy a more than 200-page bill to set up the market, and it could take up to six months for regulators to open cannabis stores to get them.
Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota joined New Jersey this year to legalize the drug. In addition to the District of Columbia, 15 states have also approved recreational marijuana.
New Jersey beat neighbors Pennsylvania and New York. Lawmakers stressed social justice reforms aimed at recognizing the effects of the war on drugs on black residents.
There is also tax revenue. Cannabis is subject to 6.625% sales tax and an excise tax that varies based on the marijuana price per ounce.
The revenue from the excise tax goes exclusively to communities disproportionately affected by marijuana drug arrests.
Due to the pandemic, New Jersey held its first election in 2020, which was largely carried out by mail. This resulted in a record number of votes cast – more than 4.6 million.
Murphy asked all registered voters to receive postal ballot papers in August, and the democratically-led legislature passed bill in support of its executive order.
Although the mail-in option was new, there were few surprises.
Democrat Joe Biden won the state’s 14 votes in the presidential contest, and Democratic US Senator Cory Booker won re-election for a second full term.
Incumbents, including Jeff Van Drew, were re-elected across the state’s 12 counties. Van Drew became a Republican after leaving the Democratic Party a year ago for speaking out against the charges against President Donald Trump.
In the 7th district, the minority leader of the Republican Senate, Tom Kean Jr., ran a very close race against the incumbent Democratic US representative Tom Malinowski, but Malinowski prevailed in the former stronghold of the Republicans.
About 94% of registered voters voted by mail. Residents had the option to personally deliver their postal ballot to polling stations, while residents with certain disabilities were allowed to vote in person.
The voter turnout was 72%, its highest level since 2008 (73%). Nevertheless, the number of votes cast broke the previous record of around 4 million votes in 2016.
Judge’s son killed
During a year marked by increasing political polarization and anger against persons in authority, the shooting of the son of a federal judge by a self-described anti-feminist lawyer touched a nerve.
The July 19 death of 20-year-old Daniel Anderl, son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, has put the focus on the threats judges routinely face across the country.
The attacker Roy Den Hollander was furious with a case pending in front of Salas and went to the family home disguised as a FedEx delivery driver. Salas’ husband Mark Anderl was also shot, but survived.
After Den Hollander committed suicide a day later, the authorities found thousands of pages with often racist and misogynistic screeds that he had published online.
Authorities said Den Hollander had a document with information on a dozen female judges from across the country – half including Salas, Latina – when he was found dead.
By November, Murphy had signed a bill protecting the personal information of judges and other law enforcement officers from disclosure, and similar laws were being considered by Congress.
What began with four days of traffic jams on the busiest bridge in the country and turned into a political scandal, ended with a reprimand – not for the perpetrators, but for those who pursued them.
The US Supreme Court in May issued the conviction of two aides to former Republican Governor Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge trail clearing scandal.
The judges found that in 2013 Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly abused their power by creating the deadlock to punish a Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse Christie. However, the U.S. law firm was overwhelmed by being charged with federal crimes.
Christie, who was not charged, denied knowing the conspiracy and accused prosecutors of targeting him in their own political revenge.
The verdict ended more than six years of drama that shattered Christie’s hopes as president and bolstered New Jersey’s reputation as a political sewer.
Dubbed the “Bridgegate,” the scandal cost taxpayers more than $ 15 million in legal and other costs, and became a punchline for talk show hosts that night.
Kelly, Christie’s former assistant chief of staff and author of the infamous email “Time for Some Traffic Problems at Fort Lee,” said she wanted to return to the civil service.
Baroni, a former senior officer of the agency that operates the bridge and who had already started serving his sentence, planned to resume the legal profession and campaign for prison reform.
Associate press writers Mike Catalini in Trenton, Wayne Parry in Atlantic City, and David Porter in Newark contributed to this story.