Leaders Call for Full Adherence to “Social Distancing” Guidelines
Lakewood area Rabbanim, civic leaders, and medical professionals emphasized the importance of residents taking whatever steps they could to minimize contact with others to contain the spread of novel Coronavirus.
The day after Beth Medrash Govoha ceased its regular sedarim, its buildings were locked and lights shut off. A message was delivered on behalf of the Roshei Yeshivah, shlita, that in light of the seriousness health risk posed by COVID-19, that talmidim and community members should learn and daven in their homes.
A detailed letter was circulated signed by many of the town’s most prominent Rabbanim and Harav Shlomo Miller, shlita,, who head’s Lakewood’s Bais Horaah, urged the community to take the utmost precautions including the closing of all non-essential businesses, and closing of shuls and batei medrashim. This past Friday, a mass phone call from Harav Simcha Bunim Cohen, shlita, endorsed by several leading Rabbanim and Dr. Robert Shanik said that in light of the potential danger to human life posed by the spread of the virus, is forbidden to attend minyanim in shuls, private houses, or any other location.
Harav Shmuel Blech and Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, acting on behalf of the Lakewood Vaad joined a statement of other Orthodox organizations urging people to remain in their homes and to comply with the guidelines of social distancing outlined by the state and federal government.
As of this past Shabbos, Governor Phil Murphy had raised the level of New Jersey’s orders to close down all non-essential businesses and urging residents to do all they could to “stay at home.”
State Seeks to Expand COVID-19 Testing in Central Jersey
Despite the rapid spread of coronavirus cases and several hospitalizations, official numbers of infected residents remained relatively low in Lakewood and Ocean County, a sign of highly limited screening capabilities. In an attempt to respond to the phenomenon, the state of New Jersey unveiled a new mass testing center in Holmdel, Monmouth County.
As of this past Sunday, the Ocean County Health Department confirmed only 97 cases, with the largest cluster, 42, in Lakewood. Still, with many sick from COIVD-19, it was certain that the figures represent only a fraction of those who are suffering from the illness.
While several testing centers have been established in the county, including CHEMED Health Center, each will only take samples from people who are high risk or presently symptomatic, citing a national shortage in screening equipment.
Public health experts have said repeatedly that mass screening is an essential part of the fight against the virus, not only in producing more accurate statistics, but in clarifying who are presently carriers of the sickness.
Governor Phil Murphy announced a new testing site in Holmdel at the PNC Bank Arts Center located off of Garden State Parkway exit 116, about 30-40 minutes north of the Lakewood area. This center offers a drive thru testing center starting at 8:00 a.m., and testing for as long as supplies of test materials last each day. Tests there too will only be for individuals who are currently symptomatic and are residents of New Jersey. It is modeled after a similar site that was set up in Northern Jersey’s Bergen County two weeks ago.
“We have had great success in testing over 1,000 individuals in just two days at our Community-Based Testing Site in Bergen County,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Through our partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, we are able to open a second drive-thru location in Central Jersey, which is an important step in dramatically ramping up our testing capabilities throughout the state. Expanding access to testing is vital in flattening the curve and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey.”
The site will be given 2,500 specimen kits and protective gear for all staff. Tests will be transmitted to laboratories twice per day and results can be expected within two to five business days. Residents are encouraged to bring their insurance cards. Should an insurer fail to cover the test, it will be paid for by the federal government and will not be billed to the individual.
“If you have symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, or cough you should be tested,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Those with underlying medical conditions and those who are 65 and older who have symptoms are particularly at risk for more severe illness and should be tested.”
Chessed Organizations Respond to Coronavirus Needs
With the devastating economic effects of shutdowns forced by the Coronavirus outbreak taking a major toll on many families in the Lakewood area, several askanim and chessed organizations launched emergency campaigns to offer some level of financial relief.
A team of askanim formed a COV19 Keren aimed at delivering economic support to those who have lost significant amounts of their revenue as a result of the outbreak.
Tomchei Shabbos reported that it had received requests from hundreds of additional families in recent days asking for food packages for the present and for the quickly approaching Yom Tov season.
Many other organizations and groups of individuals as well began initiatives to help neighbors in need. An “Emergency Supper Service” offers hot meals and delivery of grocery items for families stricken with the illness.
Rep. Smith Confers with Local Officials on Coronavirus Response
Rep. Chris Smith reached out to government and health officials to discuss steps being taken to contain the coronavirus outbreak and to offer “absolutely any advocacy and assistance necessary on the federal level.”
The congressman was briefed by Ocean County’s Public Health Coordinator, Dan Regenye on steps the county has taken to contain the virus as well as the need for protective equipment for healthcare workers.
Rep. Smith also held conference calls with representatives in Monmouth and Mercer Counties to discuss their responses.
After the House of Representatives passed its second bipartisan bill aimed at combating the virus, Rep Smith said that, “containing the outbreak, finding a cure and a safe and effective vaccine must be our highest priority—no matter the cost.”
“We must contain the coronavirus pandemic and protect all people, especially those most vulnerable to the disease such as the elderly and those with serious chronic medical conditions,” he said.