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NEW JERSEY — In an attempt to battle the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered the closure of all pre-K and K-12 schools in the state.

All schools; public, private and parochial; as well as all colleges and universities in the state will close effective March 18 until the health department deems it safe for in-person classes to resume, according to Murphy.

“We’ve worked closely to ensure that the overall educational and individual needs of students can be met during this closure, including appropriate home instruction and continued access to free and reduced meals,” Murphy said in a tweet.

The announcement comes as Murphy and local officials are implementing stricter rules to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Earlier Monday, Murphy discouraged non-essential and non-emergency travel in the state. “This will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. We want everybody to be home, not out,” he said.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have joined together to institute bans on gatherings of more than 50 people in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Gyms, movie theaters and casinos will close at 8 p.m. Monday and remain closed until further notice, according to the governors. Bars and restaurants will also close at 8 p.m. but will be allowed to offer take-out services.