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All Rutgers Faculty and Staff Must Be Fully Vaccinated by December 8th – Opting Out With Testing Is No Longer An Option; Religious and Medical Exemptions Remain

All Rutgers University faculty and staff must be vaccinated by Dec. 8 for the university to comply with an executive order signed by President Joe Biden, Antonio Calcado, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a message to university employees. Biden signed Executive Order 14042 on Sept. 9 requiring that employees of entities with federal contracts be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Guidance from the Federal Worker Safety Task Force affirmed that the order applies to Rutgers. READ MORE

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Rutgers Celebrates Grads In October 2021 instead of June 2020 Because of the COVID Grinch Stealing the Pomp and Circumstance

Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences celebrated the Classes of 2020 and 2021 in an extended weekend of pomp and circumstance that recognized their resilience and gave recent grads a chance to participate in beloved traditions missed during the pandemic. “We didn’t get the closure that we wanted, and I lacked it for both of my graduations,” said Alya Bukhari, who received an undergraduate degree in 2020 from the School of Arts and Sciences and a degree from the Graduate School of Education in 2021. “This was a moment to get that closure. For me, Rutgers was meeting the most important people and having them, along with my friends and family, support me. It was all worth it.”

The celebration began early Thursday with a formal hooding ceremony for doctoral graduates at the Rutgers Athletic Center and concluded late Sunday afternoon upon the Lawn at Wood Lawn Mansion with the School of Engineering. READ MORE

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Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Investigates Bomb Threat at the Middlesex County Courthouse

Bomb threat under investigation

Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone, Middlesex County Sheriff Mildred Scott, and Director Anthony A. Caputo of the New Brunswick Police Department announce on Monday October 25, 2021, a bomb threat to the Superior Courthouse of Middlesex County is under investigation. Earlier this morning, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department was made aware of a bomb threat concerning the Superior Courthouses located at 50 Paterson Street and 120 New Street in New Brunswick. The Courthouses and Middlesex County Administration Building were subsequently evacuated by the Sheriff’s Department. The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department at (732)745-3271 or the New Brunswick Police Department at (732)745-5200. READ MORE

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Middlesex County Closes Johnson Park Animal Haven and Will Move Animals to New Homes at Sanctuaries, Zoos, and Rescue Farms

After careful consideration and comprehensive research, and in recognition of the increasing threat that severe weather poses to Johnson Park, the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners have made the decision to close the Johnson Park Animal Haven. The process to move all animals from the haven to new homes across the state is underway. “For generations, Middlesex County families have visited the animals at the Johnson Park Animal Haven; the park has not only brought joy to those families on their visits but provided a much-needed home for animals that would otherwise be euthanized or be unable to survive in the wild. We recognize and appreciate the support that has been given to the haven throughout the years,” said the Board of County Commissioners. “Due to Johnson Park’s location within a flood plain and the real, undeniable threat of climate change, it is in the best interest of the animals to close the Johnson Park Animal Haven and rehome them in more resilient locations.”

Middlesex County officials, including those within the Office of Parks and Recreation, worked closely with resident groups advocating on behalf of the animals, including the Friends of the Johnson Park Animals, as well as local animal sanctuaries and zoos to determine the correct course of action. READ MORE

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American Repertory Ballet And Mexican Fashion Design Brand Pineda Covalin To Make Stunning Partners In “Mexican Music”

American Repertory Ballet (ARB) announces a unique collaboration with Mexican fashion design brand Pineda Covalin as part of its upcoming program at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, October 23 and 24. Pineda Colavin’s exquisite and vivid prints will become integral parts of the costumes and scenic projections for choreographer David Fernandez’s ballet titled Mexican Music. New Partners

Invited by Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel to make a new work for American Repertory Ballet, Fernandez envisioned a piece that would celebrate both the Company’s return to the stage – and his own Mexican heritage. Fernandez immediately reached out to the team at Pineda Covalin, founded by Cristina Pineda and Ricardo Covalin. “I dreamed that someday I would choreograph a ballet with costumes by Pineda Covalin. READ MORE

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New Jersey Launches Statewide Effort to Reach Customers in Need of Financial Assistance With Their Utility Bill – Grace Period on Utility Shut Offs Ends December 31

The grace period on utility shut offs ends on December 31, 2021, after which your utilities can be disconnected for non-payment.  It is critical that anyone with outstanding balances apply for utility assistance programs now.  

During Utility Assistance Week, NJBPU and DCA will be highlighting assistance programs across the state at several events including a virtual Utility Summit for non-profits, faith-based, civic, and other organizations to alert people to the December 31 deadline and to encourage people to apply for assistance.   New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) and the Department of Community Affairs announced new and expanded efforts to provide financial assistance for New Jersey residents with utility bill arrearages as part of “Utility Assistance Week,” October 18 – 22, 2021.    

Also, NJBPU has temporarily expanded its USF Program to moderate-income families so that households who encountered a financial setback during the pandemic can receive assistance. For example, a family of four can make up to $106,000 per year and qualify for the program. USF provides not only monthly credits on electric and gas bills, but also a pathway to energy debt forgiveness through the USF-Fresh Start Program. 

DCA’s LIHEAP program’s income eligibility criteria changed from 200% of the Federal Poverty Level to 60% of the State Median Income, resulting in an increase of the income threshold for a family of four from $4,039.00 gross monthly income to $6,439.00 gross monthly income. READ MORE

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HUD Assistant Deputy Secretary Perez and Lt. Gov. Oliver Address Hundreds of Community Leaders about Housing Policies

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Deputy Secretary Michele Perez and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver joined hundreds of housing advocates and policy makers to highlight the investments and policies that the federal and state government can adopt to redress the systemic and institutional barriers that have contributed to the racial wealth and housing gaps in New Jersey and around the nation at Under One Roof: Empowering People and Places 2021. 

Organized by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, the statewide association of community development organizations and allies working to ensure housing affordability in New Jersey, the virtual conference included topical workshops, awards for municipalities engaged in housing development, as well as recognition of advocacy and organizing efforts, the presentation of the Community Development Champions Award to the Legislative Black Caucus and a lifetime achievement presentation to Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-9).   

“As we continue to respond to this pandemic, ensuring everyone has a safe place to live is critical to building and sustaining a healthy community,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “As a result of all the initiatives and funding the state is rolling out, we have a real opportunity to shape housing policy, create affordable homes, and improve the New Jersey housing landscape in a lasting way.” 

Network President and Chief Executive Officer Staci Berger echoed Oliver’s comments. “Throughout this crisis, we were reminded that housing instability is often a missed paycheck away for too many New Jerseyans. The Murphy Administration, working closely with the housing and community development sector, avoided a potentially catastrophic housing crisis be enacting model programs to keep renters in their homes and help landlords pay their bills,” Berger said. “Keeping people safely in their homes during and after the pandemic is the humane and responsible approach,” Berger said.  “Now, we need long-term policy solutions and resources that dismantle barriers that have disproportionately kept vulnerable communities – and particularly Black and brown residents – from achieving housing stability.”

Perez, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Field Policy and Management at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), leads HUD’s Office of Field Policy and Management. READ MORE

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Middlesex Black-Jewish Coalition Hosts Fundraiser for HP Gives A Hoot and Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County

The Middlesex Black-Jewish Coalition (MBJC) will host an “Open Mic Night” Fundraising Event on Sunday, October 3, from 5pm to 7pm. Karen Krause, a Highland Park resident, and former comic and improv actress, will be the emcee for the occasion. The Open Mic Night event will be held in Pino’s Gift Basket Shoppe, Wine Cellar & Lounge, which is located at 13 North 4th Avenue in Highland Park, NJ. 

There is no fee for attending or performing but there is a $15 suggested donation per person. All proceeds from the event will benefit two organizations that serve the community: 

HP Gives A Hoot, a nonprofit fund created by the Borough of Highland Park to contribute to the wellbeing of the town’s children in need. They provide free groceries, school supplies, scholarships to summer camp, and mentoring services. Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, a nonprofit human services agency serving individuals and families throughout the county. READ MORE

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Main Street Highland Park Plans an Action Packet Weekend for the Community

Friday 9/24: Squash Muffin Contest at the Highland Park Farmers Market, 3:30-5:30pm. Come see Highland Park’s finest bakers show off their culinary creations made of squash! Saturday 9/25: Annual downtown Window Art Walk, an artist-led tour of the downtown window art displays. Starts at 3pm at Garden Party (60 Raritan) and ends with refreshments at Pino’s (13 North 4th). Saturday 9/25: Minari in the Highland Park Outdoor Movie Theater at the Welkovits Pavilion next to 212 Raritan Avenue. READ MORE

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Rutgers Develops Rapid Test to Detect New Emerging Coronavirus Variants

Rutgers researchers have designed a new rapid test that can detect all three of the rapidly spreading variants of the coronavirus in a little over one hour – much shorter than the three to five days required by current tests, which can also be more technically difficult and expensive to perform. Details and information on easily creating and running the rapid test – which is not being patented by Rutgers because researchers believe it should be widely available to the public – are published on the pre-print online server MedRxiv and available at no charge. The Rutgers researchers designed and clinically validated the test, which is the first to use “sloppy molecular beacon probes,” which are highly sensitive and specific DNA sequences used to detect frequent mutations in organisms.

“This rapid test was developed and tested over a few weeks in a crash program to respond to a serious public health need,” said David Alland, director of the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) Public Health Research Institute and professor and chief of infectious disease at NJMS. “Despite our hurry to get the test completed, it performed extremely well with clinical samples in our initial studies. We are very pleased with these results and we hope that this test will help in the control of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.”

The new more contagious variants, isolated in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, appear to be more easily transmitted, cause more severe disease and may be more resistant to some of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. The new rapid test is easy to set up and can be adapted for labs that use varying types of equipment and methods. READ MORE

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