Governor Murphy Announces Statewide School Closure Amid COVID-19 Spread
Governor Phil Murphy announced that he would be ordering all schools in the state-both public and private to close as of Wednesday for an unspecified period of time as a measure to stem the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The announcement was made this past Monday. Lakewood’s many mosdos haTorah were informed of the likelihood of the move the day before. As of early in the week, most were still in the midst of designing plans to allow for learning to continue in some alternative form until the outbreak abates to a level that allows for schools to re-open.
In preparation for the expected closure, Lakewood’s public schools began distributing laptops and other electronic devices to needy students in order to prepare for remote learning options.
The Governor’s order applies to all schools kindergarten through 12 grade as well as to colleges and universities.
As of early in the week, the state had nearly 100 confirmed cases of the virus, mostly concentrated in Bergen County. One elderly woman in the state had died of the illness.
Ocean County Officials Tracking and Issuing Guidance on COVID-19 Outbreak
As of this past Monday, while the Ocean County Health Department has confirmed only three local cases of COVID-19, it was heavily engaged in efforts to stem the spread.
Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/ Health Officer urged to public to adhere to restrictions announced by the state and recommendations of “social distancing,” and to remain informed via reliable sources of information.
“We just want our residents to know that while this is a serious public health issue, the risk is still low at the moment,” adds Mr. Regenye, “Residents need to continue to remain informed of what is occurring from reputable sources such as the Ocean County Health Department, New Jersey Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites.”
The first to be diagnosed was a man from Manchester Township in his 70’s who was hospitalized and is in stable condition. The second is a woman from Toms River and third a man from Berkeley Township both of whom are also in stable condition.
While early in the week the number of individuals confirmed to have the virus remained low, it is highly likely that significantly more have it, but had not been tested.
Ocean County officials including Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari and Freeholder Gerry Little continue to participate in daily conference calls with Governor Phil Murphy’s office to keep updated on the situation and also convey the county’s needs to the State. The Board of Chosen Freeholders are also convening conference calls with all municipalities to keep them apprised of changing events related to COVID-19.
“We are taking this very seriously,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “We are doing all we can to take protective measures including stepping up the sanitizing of our buildings, making sure our buses are clean, and distributing information as part of our ongoing efforts to insure public safety during this outbreak.”
Schools and many public recreational venues such as restaurants have been closed or ordered to operate on a limited basis. While strongly encouraging social distancing, county officials announced that the area’s 27 public parks would remain open.
“As the weather warms up, residents may want to get out of their homes for a bit and visiting one of our parks can be an option,” said Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines, who serves as Chairwoman of Ocean County Parks and Recreation. “While our events and programs are canceled and nature centers are closed, we encourage families to take advantage of our parks and golf courses to get fresh air and exercise as we work together to get through this.”
Noting that generally strong health has been shown to make people most resistant to COVID-19 and its most dangerous effects, county officials urged residents to take the unique time to improve their diets and do more exercise.
“It’s a good time to encourage people that a few minor changes including nutrition and exercise can go a long way to protect yourself and boost your immune system to better fight off many illnesses – including the flu,” said Mr. Regenye. “It doesn’t matter what your age, if your healthy enough to exercise then why not do what you can to strengthen your body and keep your immunity healthy to fight off virus’ that can make you sick or lead to other health issues.”
Ocean County Warns Against Price Gauging
Despite assurances from public officials that the COVID-19 outbreak should not bring shortages of food and other household essentials, a general state of alarm has sent many to clear shelves and some unscrupulous vendors to take advantage of the situation.
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced that they intend to take a hard line against any price gauging.
“It is unconscionable that anyone would prey on customers who are simply trying to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said.
The state of emergency declared by Governor Phil Murphy contains specific safeguards and strong penalties against vendors who seek to take advantage of the present public health crisis.
Stephen Scaturro, director of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs said his staff is dispersed throughout the county to observe the actions of sellers.
“We’ve got boots on the ground looking for problems and we’re ready to respond to any complaints,” Mr. Scaturro said. “As soon as the governor issued his state of emergency I sent investigators out to make sure stores were complying with the law.”
Under state law, merchants during a time of emergency may not increase prices by more than 10 percent.