Lakewood Briefs

OCHD Responds to Novel Coronavirus Spread

In response to rising concern over the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, The Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) released a statement addressing the matter and offering counsel on methods of protection.

“The World Health Organization declared this outbreak an international global health emergency, but the threat is very low at this point for us here in Ocean County and the rest of the country,” explains Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator. “But because this is such a new virus, there is so much to learn and manage in a rapidly evolving situation.”

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak that first emerged in Wuhan, China and originated from infected animals. The new coronavirus causes symptoms consistent with a respiratory illness and has now killed at least 170 people and infected more than 8,000 across 20 countries, including the United States. Six cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S. but none in New Jersey as of January 31, 2020.

OCHD said that it is coordinating with federal and state agencies to stay appraised on developments regarding the virus.

Experts believe the virus is spread much like the common cold and that, once contracted, it acts similarly to influenza. As such, OCHD recommended citizens take precautions normally used to protect oneself against flu and similar illnesses such as regularly washing hands, reviewing travel advisories, and staying away from those who are sick.

Jackson to Form “Multicultural” Advisory Committee

Jackson Township announced the formation of a committee aimed at encouraging dialogue between “folks of different religions and ethnicities” in the town.

Presumably, the group’s formation is an attempt to address ongoing tensions between Jackson’s growing Orthodox community and voices in town that oppose that trend, including several elected officials.

In a statement, Mayor Mike Renia said that the committee’s formation was the result of meetings held with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office and the office of the state’s Attorney General.

“What I took away from these hours of workshop groups, discussing all sides of cultural importance- is that we as the Township need to do much more- we need to do more to get to know each other, to understand each other, and to appreciate each individual’s point of view,” he said.

The Mayor said that what will be known as the Citizens’ Multicultural Advisory Committee will seek “to involve our religious leaders from all faiths, law enforcement, first-aid and fire representatives, local organizations, clubs, committees as well as anyone else who has a genuine desire to contribute their knowledge and life experience to help Jackson continue to be a leader in community development and cultural understanding.”

The township is presently engaged in litigation against the Agudath Israel of America over several ordinances, one of which created a de facto ban on eruvin and another that did the same for the construction of new schools. Freedom of information requests have exposed several emails and statements from Mayor Renia and other present and former members of the Jackson’s government linking them directly to efforts to squeeze Orthodox life.

According to a report by the Asbury Park Press, the committee might be used as a means of making suggestions for policy changes.

Freeholders Prepare for Census Count

Ocean County has distributed funds to aid in the achievement of a “complete count” in the coming 2020 census.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders emphasized the importance of an accurate census count in how much of the $22.7 million in federal funds given to New Jersey will come to the county.

Census 2020 will be taking place April 1 which is considered National Census Day. The Census has taken place every 10 years since 1790, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution – an effort to count every person living in the United States.

The county is presently in the process of distributing $116,411 in grants to municipalities and libraries earmarked for outreach to historically hard-to-count populations.
Of these funds, Lakewood will receive, $50,150, the largest single amount. Jackson and Toms River will each receive $10,200.

The Ocean County Library system will receive a grant of $21,100.

The county formed its Census Complete Count Committee last year. It is comprised of representatives from Ocean County Government Departments, municipalities, non-profits and service organizations, community leaders, faith-based groups, schools, businesses, media outlets and others.

2020 is the first time that the vast majority of residents will not receive a paper questionnaire, but a postcard reminding them to fill out a census form online.

Freeholders reminded residents that information disclosed to the census bureau will secure and will not be shared with any other institutions or agencies.

Rep. Kim Supports Bill on Executive War Powers

Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) voted for legislation aimed at curbing the President’s ability to send forces into potential war zones without consultation with Congress.

Ostensibly, the bill is an effort to re-set the balance between the executive and legislative branches on war power. The present legislation was drafted as a warning to White House following the US strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

According to a statement by Rep. Kim’s office the bill aims to “stop the continued exploitation of an 18-year old Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF),” a measure passed to enable actions against Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq under former President George W. Bush.

“Our military service members in the Middle East deserve clarity of mission,” said Rep. Kim. “Deploying them under an 18-year old authorization against a Saddam Hussein regime that no longer exists is not what our service members deserve. We face real threats in the Middle East, and dusting off old playbooks won’t help us develop the strategy and approach we need. The American people need to be a part of these decisions going forward as our Founding Fathers intended.”