TRENTON —- As some schools switch to virtual classes due to students testing positive for COVID-19, fewer students statewide are left without a device or internet connection in order to participate in virtual learning.

As of Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said that 70 percent of districts report not a device of connectivity needs for remote learning, while around 35,000 students throughout the state lack the ability to adequately participate in virtual classes.  That number is an improvement from a few months ago when, in the summer, the state estimated that 231,000 students were in need of a computer or internet connection.

“To be sure, we are going to closing the remaining gap,” the governor said.

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Over the past week, there have been five new outbreaks of the coronavirus at schools throughout the state, with 47 new cases reported at schools. Since the school year began, there have been 56 outbreaks with 239 cumulative COVID-19 cases in the states of more than 3,000 schools.

This past week, Belmar Elementary School reported that a student tested positive for COVID-19 and that the school would switch to virtual instruction until Nov. 25. In Wall Township the school district announced this week that 11 students have tested positive for the virus. Two staff members and a student tested positive this week at Manasquan High School as well, the district announced this week, bringing their total to 11 cases since classes began.

“We knew going in that there would be cases in our schools and the vast majority of the cases we see continue to be linked to out-of-school activities,” the governor said on Wednesday. “We remain confident in the protocols in place to protect the health and safety of our schools and educational communities.”

Also during a briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Murphy also announced that New Jersey will be joining a regional partnership of states in urging colleges and universities to make COVID-19 testing available to residential students before they go home for Thanksgiving.

Other states in the partnership include New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Delaware.

Judy Persichilli, New Jersey’s Department of Health commissioner, said that students returning home for Thanksgiving next week should quarantine for 14 days before going home. If students haven’t completed the 14-day quarantine period by the time they go home, they should remain separate from their family, social distance and wear a mask until the quarantine period ends.

If a returning student tests positive “should avoid traveling home if possible,” the commissioner said.

“I know families are eager to spend time with students returning from school and the public health guidance we are sharing is limiting some of those interactions, but these steps will keep your families safe,” she said.

Follow local coronavirus news at: https://starnewsgroup.com/coronavirus/

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