New Jersey has suspended all Municipal Court sessions for two weeks starting March 16, although people can still pay fines online.

The order on Saturday by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner follows an earlier announcement that Superior Courts were suspending new jury trials amid the public health state of emergency for the new coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19 has sickened at least 50 known people in the state of New Jersey and killed a 69-year-old man. The virus, the spread of which was declared a pandemic this week by the World Health Organization, has been detected in 49 states as of Saturday. On Friday, following criticism that the administration had been downplaying the risks posed by the virus, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to free up federal funds.

New Jersey earlier this week recommended that large gatherings of at least 250 people be postponed or canceled. Dozens of school districts have ordered that students stay home for remote or online learning for the next several weeks. And some malls and other large venues also have closed their doors.

In addition to the courts, police departments and emergency medical personnel have been implementing new policies during the health emergency.

Municipal courts

Anyone that had been scheduled to appear March 16 to 27 in a Municipal Court to deal with a traffic, parking or local ordinance violation will be sent a new notice to appear, the courts said Saturday.

Anyone that is still required to appear during those dates despite the suspension will receive a special notice of that requirement.

Municipal courts will continue to take applications for temporary restraining orders, hold detention hearings and address "matters that implicate public safety," the courts said.

During the two weeks, courts will continue to accept filings and payments online or in person unless the local court building has been closed.

Calling the police

Summit Police Department said Friday that it was accepting police reports by telephone only for the time being, an action being taken by other departments.

In Ewing, police were asking residents who call police to notify the dispatcher whether they or anyone in their home have been feeling ill so that emergency responders can protect themselves before entering the home.

Officers in Ewing also will be keeping a 6-foot distance from people and asking residents to speak with them outside their homes.

"Obviously, these changes apply to non-life-threatening calls for service," Chief John Stemler III said in a letter Friday. "In an emergency you can expect the same swift response and high level of service that the Ewing Police Department always delivers."

In Ocean County, a Manchester police officer and EMTs were in self-quarantine after they responded to a first-aid call involving a 72-year-old township man who later tested positive for the new coronavirus.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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